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Title: The Life of Charlemagne (Charles the Great)
Author: Hodgkin, Thomas
Language: English
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[Illustration: CHARLEMAGNE

Painting by Albrecht Dürer.]







  Copyright, 1902,


In attempting to compress the history of the great Emperor Charles
within the narrow limits of the present volume, I have undertaken a
difficult task, and I trust that my fellow-historians will consider,
not how much has been omitted, but how much, or rather how little, it
was possible to insert.

It may be thought that I might have gained space by proceeding at once
to the beginning of Charles’s own reign instead of devoting more than
eighty pages to his predecessors, but this did not seem to me possible.
The great Emperor was the last term of an ascending series--nobles,
mayors of the palace, kings; and in order to understand the law of
the series it is absolutely necessary to study some of its earlier

A few words as to our authorities. For the period before the accession
of Pippin our chief authority is the chronicle which is known by the
name of _Fredegarius_, very meagre, and written in barbarous Latin, but
honest; then a still more miserable continuation of this work by an
unknown scribe; and lastly, a much better performance, from a literary
point of view, _The Lives of the Bishops of Metz_, by Paulus Diaconus.

For the reigns of Pippin and of Charles the Great we have fairly
satisfactory materials in the shape of the Annals, which now began
to be kept at various monasteries; chief among them the _Annales
Laurissenses majores_, so-called from their connection, real or
supposed, with the great monastery of Lorsch (in Hesse-Darmstadt, about
ten miles east of Worms). So extensive, however, is the knowledge
of State affairs possessed by this writer that it is the opinion of
Professor Ranke, and of most modern inquirers, that he cannot have been
a mere monk writing his chronicle in a convent, but that we have here
in fact the chronicles of the Frankish kingdom. This view is to some
extent confirmed by the fact that there is a fuller recension of them
in a more literary form, which bears the name of _Annales Finhardi_,
and thus professes to be the work of Charles’s friend and secretary.
The precious _Vita Caroli_, from the pen of the same writer, is
described in the following pages.

The writers who in modern times have treated of the life of Charles
the Great number some hundreds, and I make no pretension to even a
superficial acquaintance with the bibliography of so vast a subject,
but I may mention that the books which I have found most helpful
in the composition of the following pages are Waitz’s _Deutsche
Verfassungsgeschichte_, Guizot’s _Lectures on the History of
Civilization_, Dahn’s _Urgeschichte der germanischen und romanischen
Völker_, and pre-eminently the series of _Jahrbücher der deutschen
Geschichte_, in which Bonnell has treated of _The Beginnings of the
Carolingian House_; Oelsner, of _The Life of Pippin, King of the
Franks_; and Abel and Simson, of _The Life of Charles the Great_. To
the last work (in two volumes) I have been under great and continual

                        THOS. HODGKIN.




  INTRODUCTION                                                1


  EARLY MAYORS OF THE PALACE                                 15




  PIPPIN, KING OF THE FRANKS                                 63




  FALL OF THE LOMBARD MONARCHY                              109


  THE CONVERSION OF THE SAXONS                              137


  REVOLTS AND CONSPIRACIES                                  166


  RONCESVALLES                                              188


  WARS WITH AVARS AND SCLAVES                               204


  RELATIONS WITH THE EAST                                   219


  CAROLUS AUGUSTUS                                          240


  OLD AGE                                                   274


  RESULTS                                                   308


      A. Genealogy of the Ancestors of Charles the Great    332

      B. Family of St. Charles the Great                    333






In the gradual transformation of the old world of classical antiquity
into the world with which the statesmen of to-day must deal, no man
played a greater part than Charles the Great,[1] King of the Franks
and Emperor of Rome. The sharp lines of demarcation which we often draw
between period and period, and which are useful as helps to memory,
have not for the most part had any real existence in history, for in
the world of men, as in the development of the material universe, it
is true that uniformity rather than cataclysm is the rule: _Natura
non vadit per saltum_. Still there are some great landmarks,[2] such
as the foundation of Constantinople, Alaric’s capture of Rome, the
Hegira of Mohammed, the discovery of America, the Reformation, and
the French Revolution, which have no merely artificial existence. We
can see that the thoughts of the great majority of civilized men were
suddenly forced into a different channel by such events, that after
they had occurred, men hoped for other benefits and feared other
dangers than they had looked for before these events took place. And
such a changeful moment in the history of the world was undoubtedly the
life of the great ruler who is generally spoken of as Charlemagne, and
pre-eminently the year 800, when he was crowned as Emperor at Rome.

When Charles appeared upon the scene, the Roman Empire--at least as far
as Western Europe was concerned--had been for more than three centuries
slowly dying. An event, to which allusion has just been made--the
capture of Rome by Alaric in 410--had dealt the great world-empire a
mortal blow, and yet so tough was its constitution, so deeply was the
thought engraven even on the hearts of its most barbarous enemies,
“Rome is the rightful mistress of the world,” that it seemed as if that
world-empire could not die. The Visigoth, the Ostrogoth, the Vandal,
the Burgundian, the Lombard, coming forth from the immemorial solitude
of their forests, streamed over the cities and the vineyards of the
Mediterranean lands, and erected therein their rude state-systems,
their barbaric sovereignties; but even in framing their uncouth
national codes they were forced to use the language of Rome; in
government they could not dispense with the official machinery of the
Empire; in religious affairs, above all, they found themselves always
face to face with men to whom the city by the Tiber was still _Roma
caput mundi_. Hence in all these new barbarian kingdoms that arose on
the ruins of the Empire there was a certain feeling of precariousness
and unrest, a secret fear that the power which had come into being so
strangely and so unexpectedly would in a moment vanish away, and that
the Roman Augustus would assert himself once more as supreme over the
nations; to borrow a phrase from the controversies of a much later
date, the Visigothic and Burgundian and Lombard kings were obviously
kings _de facto_; but there was a latent consciousness in the minds of
their subjects, perhaps in their own also, that they were not kings _de

Had the Italian peninsula been less easily accessible by way of the
Julian Alps, or had Rome been situated in as strong a position as
Constantinople, it is possible that this secret belief in her rightful
predominance might have won back for a Roman emperor that dominion
over Europe which was in fact wielded for a time by the Roman popes.
But the virtual transference of the seat of empire from the Tiber
to the Bosphorus, which was the result of the foundation of the new
Rome,[3] and the frequent successful sieges of the old Rome, prevented
the Roman emperor from thus reasserting himself. There were jealousies
between Rome and Constantinople already before the end of the fourth
century, and when under Justinian the Empire made its wonderful efforts
to recover the ground which it had lost in Africa, in Italy, and in
Spain,[4] though these reconquests were effected in the name of a Roman
Augustus, it was felt, and often loudly asserted, that the armies which
fought under the imperial standards were Greek rather than Roman. Thus,
through all the kingdoms of the west, even while the emperor enthroned
at Constantinople was looked upon as in some sense the legitimate
monarch of the world, the old deep-rooted hostility between East
and West also made itself felt, and it was becoming every day more
improbable that the western lands should ever be brought under the rule
of a “Byzantine” Cæsar.

Ere the long, slow agony which I have called the death of Rome was
completed, the world was startled by that outbreak of fierce Semitic
monotheism which is associated with the name of Mohammed. In 622,
rather more than two centuries after Alaric’s capture of Rome, Mohammed
escaped from Mecca to Medina, and in this retreat of his the followers
of his faith in succeeding ages have rightly seen the beginning of his
career of spiritual conquest, wherefore they date all their events from
the midnight journey of a fugitive, even as the other great Oriental
faith has taken for its landmark the birth of a little child in a
stable. Before Mohammed’s death in 632 the career of Saracen conquest
had begun. Ere the close of the seventh century Syria, Persia, Egypt,
North Africa, were torn from the Empire of the Cæsars and obeyed the
rule of the Caliph. In 711 Europe saw the first breach made in its
defences when the great Iberian peninsula (all save a few mountain
glens in the remote north) was conquered by the Moors, and Mecca took
the place of Jerusalem or Rome as the spiritual centre of gravity
for Spain. The turbaned invaders crossed the Pyrenees, in 725 they
penetrated as far as Autun, only 150 miles from Paris. Though defeated
by Charles Martel, the grandfather of Charlemagne, in the great battle
of Poitiers,[5] the Moors remained encamped on the soil of that which
we now call France. Narbonne was in their possession at the time of the
birth of Charlemagne, and remained so during the years of his boyhood,
till won back for Christendom by his father in 759.

In the east of Europe the Avars[6] still hung menacingly over the
Italian and Illyrian lands. A people allied to the Huns, they occupied
the mid-Danubian region which had been the seat of the barbarian
empire of Attila, and though their power had declined somewhat from
that which they wielded in the seventh century, it was still a serious
danger to civilization. As we shall see, however, the barbarous and
heathen Saxons in the lands between the Lower Rhine and the Elbe,
representing the Teutonic spirit in its fiercest and most stubborn
moods, represented an even more formidable obstacle to that remodelling
of Europe in the likeness of the old Roman Empire which was the aim of
the great statesman with whose life we have to deal.

Such, very briefly, was the aspect of affairs when Charles the Great,
the descendant of many Mayors of the Palace and of one King, found
himself, with the power of the Frankish nation collected in his sole
right hand, controller of the destinies of Western Europe. Without
going too far into the times preceding his accession, something in
order to explain his position must be said, both as to the Frankish
nation and the Arnulfing family.

In the north-east of Gaul dwelt, in the latter part of the fifth
century after Christ, a confederacy of German tribes called the Salian
Franks, occupying the districts known in later days as Flanders,
Artois, and Picardy. Farther south was the strong and warlike tribe of
the Ripuarian Franks, whose territory stretched along the banks of the
Rhine from Mainz to Köln, and along the Moselle from Coblenz to Metz.
Salians and Ripuarians recognized a loose tie of kinship between them,
but there was no strong feeling of unity even in the subdivision of
the two nations. Both Salians and Ripuarians had many petty kings, and
there were frequent civil wars between them.

In this state of things one of these petty kings, Clovis,[7] the Salian
Frank,[8] began to reign at Tournai in 481, being then fifteen years
of age. When he died, in the years 511, after forty-five years of life
and thirty of sovereignty, he had made himself sole master of all
Frankish men, and had subdued to his dominion three-fourths of France
and a great block of territory in south-western Germany. Let us briefly
recapitulate these conquests, omitting the wars in which the other
Frankish princes, whether Salian or Ripuarian, went down before him.
In 486 he overthrew the Roman governor Syagrius, who had set up some
sort of independent kingship at Soissons. This conquest gave Clovis
the provinces afterwards known as Champagne and Lorraine. In 496 he
defeated the Alamanni in a great battle, the ultimate result of which
was the annexation of the wide district on the right bank of the Rhine
known in the Middle Ages as Swabia, comprising in terms of modern
geography Alsace, Baden, Würtemberg, the western part of Bavaria,
and the northern part of Switzerland. The well-timed conversion to
Christianity, and to the Catholic form of Christianity which followed
this victory, facilitated the next great conquest of Clovis. In the
year 507 he went forth to war against Alaric, King of the Visigoths,
defeated and slew him, and thus added Aquitaine, that large and fertile
region which lies between the Loire and the Pyrenees, to his dominions.
Four years after this he died, but in the next generation, between 524
and 534, his sons conquered Burgundy, and thus added to their father’s
kingdom the whole valley of the Rhone from its source to its mouth,
except the narrow but rich land of Provence, which was retained by the
Ostrogothic kings of Italy for a few years longer, but in 536 this
also became Frankish. Contemporaneously with the conquest of Burgundy
proceeded the conquest of Thuringia, the fair region in the heart of
Germany which still bears that name, and the establishment of the
over-lordship of the Franks over the nation of the Bavarians, whose
country stretched from the Danube across the Alps, into the valley of
the Adige and up to the very gates of Italy. The date of this last
addition to the Frankish dominions cannot be precisely ascertained, but
may be stated approximately at the year 535.

It will be seen from this brief summary how rapidly the tide of
Frankish conquest rose almost to the same high-water mark which it
maintained at the time of the birth of Charlemagne. In fifty years from
the first appearance of Clovis as a warrior, the Franks have subdued
the whole of modern France (except a little strip of Languedoc), the
Low Countries, Switzerland, and all Germany as far as the Elbe and the
mountains of Bohemia, except Hanover and a part of Westphalia which is
occupied by the untamed and still heathen Saxons. Such a monarchy even
now would be the greatest power in Europe. In the sixth century, with
Spain weakened by the estrangement between Arians and Catholics, with
Italy torn by strife between the Empire and its barbarian occupants,
with Britain still in utter chaos, nibbled at but not devoured by
her Anglo-Saxon invaders, the kingdom of the Franks when united and
at peace within itself, was the strongest power in Europe, with the
two doubtful exceptions of the kingdom of the savage Avars and the
tottering fabric of the Roman Empire.

But the years in which the Frankish kingdom was thus united and at
peace with itself were few. It had been built up by the ferocious
energy of one man and his sons; it was hardly in any true sense of
the word national, and he and his descendants treated it as an estate
rather than as a country, partitioned and repartitioned it in a way
which wasted its strength and ruined its chances of attaining to
political unity. The comparison may seem a strange one, but in the
personal, non-national character of his policy the first Frankish king
reminds one of the latest French conqueror; the career of Clovis may
be illustrated by that of Napoleon. Both men emphatically “fought for
their own bands”; both were more intent on massing great countries
under their sway than on really assimilating the possessions which they
had already acquired; both in different ways made, or tried to make,
the Catholic Church an instrument of their ambition; and both seem to
have looked upon Europe, or so much of it as they could acquire, as a
big estate to be divided among their children or relations.

There is no need here to dwell upon the perplexing details of the
division of the kingdom of Clovis among his sons and grandsons. We
perceive a tendency to regard the north-eastern portion of the realm,
especially that conquered from Syagrius,[9] as the true kernel of the
kingdom; and therefore, widely as the dominions of the brothers stretch
asunder, their capitals, Metz, Orleans, Soissons, Paris, all lie
comparatively near to one another, all probably within the ring-fence
of the Syagrian kingdom. But there is also a tendency to fall asunder
into four great divisions. Burgundy and Aquitaine, though they do not
formally resume their independence, are often seen as separate kingdoms
under a Frankish king. But the more important division, the more
fateful rivalry separates the two northern kingdoms, which eventually
receive the names of Neustria[10] and Austrasia. In Neustria,
which contained the regions of Flanders, Normandy, Champagne, and
Central France as far as the Loire, there was doubtless a very large
Gallo-Roman population, though its numbers may not have so enormously
preponderated over those of the Teutonic immigrants as in Aquitaine and
Burgundy. The Roman language and some remains of Roman culture survived
here in Neustria, and were preparing the ground for the formation
of the mediæval kingdom of France. Austrasia, on the other hand,
the territory of the Rhine and the Moselle, seems to have remained
essentially German. The Latin speech in this country must have been
confined to ecclesiastics and a few of the more cultivated courtiers;
it can never have been the speech of the people. And though here we
must speak rather by conjecture than by proof, it is probable that the
old Germanic institutions of the hundred and the _gau_[11] survived
here in greater vigor than on the alien soil of the Romanized Gaul. It
was also through the rulers of Austrasia that the connection, frail
and precarious as it often might be, was kept up between the Frankish
monarchy and the great, semi-independent duchies of the Thuringians,
the Alamanni, and the Bavarians.

Thus already in the fissure between the western and eastern portions of
the Merovingian kingdom[12] we see the rift, premonitory of that mighty
chasm which now separates the great states of France and Germany.



The historical student who visits in thought the nursery of modern
European states--the period from 500 to 800 of the Christian
era--finds with amused surprise how many of the features familiar
to him in their weather-beaten old age he can trace in the faces of
those baby kingdoms. Gothic Spain, with its manifold councils, its
ecclesiastical intolerance, and its bitter persecutions of the Jews,
is the anticipation of the Spain of the Ferdinands and the Philips.
Italy, cleft in sunder by the patrimony of St. Peter and with the
undying hostility between the pope and the Lombard king, presages
the very conflict which is now being waged between the Vatican and
the Quirinal. England, notwithstanding all her early elements of
confusion and mismanagement, clings desperately to her one great saving
institution of the Witan,[13] and thus travails in birth with the
future parliament.

And even so, France under the Merovingian kings is the land of
centralized government, which though strong and imposing in theory,
repeatedly shows itself weak and insufficient in practice from the
incapacity of the governing brain to perform the manifold functions
assigned to it by destiny. As far as we can see, Clovis and his
immediate successors wielded a power which was practically unlimited.
The checks which the German nations from the time of Tacitus downwards
had imposed on the authority of their kings had almost entirely
disappeared before the overmastering power of the great Salian
chief who had united the whole of Gaul under his sway, and who was
continually reminded by his friends, the Christian bishops, how high
had been the throne and how heavy the sceptre of the Roman Augustus
in that very region. The well-known story of the vase of Soissons
illustrates at once the German memories of freedom and the Merovingian
mode of establishing a despotism. As a battle comrade the Frankish
warrior protests against Clovis receiving an ounce beyond his due share
of the spoils. As a battle leader Clovis rebukes his henchman for the
dirtiness of his accoutrements, and cleaves his skull to punish him for
his independence.

There can be little doubt that it was the influence of Roman and
ecclesiastical ideas which tended to exalt the rude chiefs of the
Salian tribe into their later position of practically despotic
monarchs, surrounded by a crowd of fawning flatterers and servile
courtiers. The effect of this exaltation on the royal house itself was
disastrous. Merovingian royalty flowered too soon and faded early.
Clovis himself was short-lived, dying, as we have seen, at the age of
five-and-forty. But two or three generations later the career of the
kings, his descendants, was of far more portentous brevity. Nothing
is more common than to find a Merovingian king who is a father at
fifteen, or even earlier, and who dies (not always by a violent death)
under thirty. Let us take a few of the lives of the later kings as
an illustration. Dagobert I., who is a sort of patriarch among them,
dies at thirty-eight; his son, Clovis II., at twenty-four; of the sons
of this latter king, Chlothair III. dies at eighteen, Childeric II.
at twenty. Theodoric III. actually lives to the age of thirty-eight,
but of his sons one dies at thirteen and another at eighteen. And so
on with many other names that might be quoted. It was evidently by
their vices that these hapless “do-nothing” kings were hurried to
such early graves. Every student of the pages of Gregory of Tours[14]
knows the dreary picture of morals and of social life which is there
presented: the coarseness of the barbarian without his rough fidelity,
the voluptuousness of the Gallo-Roman noble without his culture. Even
as we see at the present day in the contact of two civilizations or of
two faiths, notably in the contact of Christianity and Mohammedanism,
that the men whose position places them on the borders of the two are
apt to display the vices of both and the virtues of neither, so was it
with the Frankish nobles and bishops of Gaul in the sixth and seventh
centuries, and so emphatically was it with their head, the Frankish
king who reigned at Metz or Orleans or Paris. Immersed in his swinish
pleasures, with his constitution ruined by his early excesses, what
could the sickly youth, the Childebert or Chlothair of the day, do to
overtake the mass of business which the administration of the realm,
with its highly centralized mechanism, imposed upon him? He could not
do it all, and in practice he did nothing, and sank easily, perhaps
happily, into the condition of a _roi fainéant_. Dagobert I., who died
in 638, is the last Merovingian king who displays some royal energy
and strength of purpose. After him for more than a century a series of
pageant kings pass before us, Clovises and Theodorics and Chilperics,
whose names history refuses to remember, but whose pitiable condition
is represented to us by a few vivid touches from the hand of Einhard,
the biographer of Charlemagne. He describes to us how the Merovingian
king, seated in his chair of state, received the ambassadors of foreign
powers, and repeated, parrot-like, the answers which he had been
taught to give; how he travelled through the land in a wagon drawn by
a yoke of oxen, with a clownish herdsman for his charioteer, and thus
made his appearance when his presence was required at the palace or
at the yearly assemblies of the people; but how for the greater part
of the year he abode at one small villa in the country, living on its
produce, eked out by a scanty grant from his prime minister, and having
in truth nothing that he could call his own save his royal title, his
long flowing hair, and his pendulous beard, which were the marks of his
kingly state.

Doubtless it is not only the constitutional sovereign who is obliged
to content himself with only a small share of actual power. The despot
also, if he wishes to have any enjoyment of life, must leave much to be
done by his ministers, who, whatever show of deference they may yield
to his judgment, will practically decide for themselves the great mass
of administrative questions that come before them. Thus Louis XIII. had
his Richelieu; thus the Sultan of Turkey has his Grand Vizier; thus,
till our own day, the Mikado of Japan had his Shogun, whom European
travellers wrote about by his Chinese title of Tycoon. The relation of
these last regents to the royal dynasty in whose name they ruled for
many centuries, while depriving them of every shred of actual power,
seems to furnish the closest parallel in all history to the relation of
the Frankish _major domus_ to the Merovingian king.

The origin and early stages of the growth of the power of the “mayor
of the palace” (our usual English translation of the title _major
domus_) form one of the most difficult subjects in Frankish history.
Perhaps the greatest difficulty is to understand why it is that no
Teutonic name of an office which was certainly not Roman but Teutonic
should have survived in history. An opinion which has found some
powerful supporters is that the office was the same which was called
by the Germans _seneschal_, “the oldest servant” in the palace, and
that as the last part of this word denoted a servile condition, the
more respectful Latin term _major domus_ was adopted instead of it.
This opinion is, however, as powerfully opposed, and certainly the
fact that both _major domus_ and _seniscalcus_ are found in the same
documents as titles of apparently different offices seems to throw a
doubt upon its correctness.

But whatever the origin of the name, it is pretty clear that the mayor
of the palace was originally but the chief domestic of the king, he
to whom it appertained to order the ceremonies of the court, to rule
the royal pages, probably to superintend the repairs of the royal
dwelling. Hence not only reigning kings but queens dowager, and even
princesses, had their _majores domus_, and it even seems probable
that one king might have several mayors, each superintending one of
his various palaces. This, however, is only true of the early days of
the mayoralty. As chief man of business to an imperfectly educated,
care-encumbered, pleasure-loving king, the mayor of the palace took
one burden after another off the royal shoulders, and at the same time
drew one source of power after another into his own hands. Especially,
at a pretty early period of his career, he seems to have acquired the
supreme control of the royal treasury, superintending the collection
of the taxes, administering the royal domains, eventually acquiring
the power of granting those _beneficia_ or (as they would be called in
the language of a later day) those fiefs, by which on the one hand the
royal property was so seriously diminished, but on the other hand the
friendship of an important nobleman might, at a crisis of the mayor’s
fortunes, be so easily secured.

From the first appearance of the _major domus_ in Frankish history
till the year when the last _major domus_ was crowned King of the
Franks, thereby absorbing the lower office in the higher, a period of
about 170 years intervened, and during that long space of time these
anomalous functionaries assume very different shapes and exercise their
powers in very different ways. Sometimes, especially in the earlier
years of this period, they are the vigorous upholders of the rights
of the crown against a turbulent aristocracy, and then the mayor of
the palace seems to anticipate Richelieu. Sometimes they appear at the
head of the aristocracy and force their way, almost in spite of the
king, into the palace from which they take their title, and then they
remind us of the Guises and the Condés of a later day. In Neustria and
Burgundy no mayor of the palace who arises there succeeds in making his
office hereditary. In Austrasia there is a very early tendency towards
hereditary succession in the office, and five generations of able men
wielding its growing powers become at last in name, as well as in fact,

It is out of the question to give here any detailed description of the
development of the mayoralty of the palace during that space of nearly
two centuries, but one or two illustrations drawn from the history of
the times may show what manner of men the mayors were, and how they
wielded their power.

“In the tenth year of the reign of Theodoric II., King of Burgundy,”
says the unlettered chronicler who goes by the name of Fredegarius,[15]
“at the instigation of Brunechildis, and by order of Theodoric,
Protadius is appointed mayor of the palace, a man of great cleverness
and energy in all that he undertook, but fierce was his injustice
against private persons. Straining too far the rights of the treasury,
he strove to fill it and to enrich himself by ingenious attacks on
private property. Wherever he found a man of noble descent, all such
he strove to humble, that more might be found who could assume the
dignity which he had seized. By these and other exactions, the work of
a man too clever for his office, he succeeded in making enemies of all
the chief men in Burgundy.” The chronicler then goes on to describe
how Protadius stirred up strife between Theodoric and his brother
Theudebert, King of Austrasia, whom he declared to be no true king’s
son, but son of a gardener by an adulterous intercourse with the
queen. The Burgundian army marched forth and encamped at a place called
Caratiacum, but there the king was advised by his _leudes_ [retainers]
to make peace with Theudebert. Protadius, however, exhorted them one
by one to join battle. Theudebert was encamped not far off with his
army. Then all the army of Theodoric, finding a suitable opportunity,
rushed upon Protadius, saying that it was better that one man should
die than that the whole army should be sent into danger. Now Protadius
was sitting in the tent of King Theodoric playing at draughts with
the arch-physician Peter. And when the army had surrounded him on
every side, and Theodoric was held back by his _leudes_ to prevent his
going thither, he sent Uncilenus to announce to the army his word of
command that they should desist from their plots against Protadius.
Uncilenus straightway bore to the army this message: ‘Thus orders our
lord Theodoric, that Protadius be slain.’ Rushing in, therefore, and
entering the king’s tent from all sides with drawn swords, they slay
Protadius. Covered with confusion, Theodoric made an involuntary peace
with his brother Theudebert, and both armies returned to their own

“After the decease of Protadius in the eleventh year of Theodoric,
Claudius is appointed to the office of _major domus_. He was a Roman
by descent, a prudent man, a pleasant story-teller, energetic in all
things, given to patience, abounding in counsel, learned in letters,
full of faith, desiring friendship with all men. Taking warning by the
example of those who had gone before him, he bore himself gently and
patiently in his high office, but this only hindrance had he, that he
was burdened with too great fatness of body.

“In the twelfth year of Theodoric, at the instigation of Brunechildis,
Uncilenus, who had by his treacherous words brought about the death
of Protadius, had one of his feet cut off, was despoiled of his
possessions and reduced to poverty. At the instigation of the same
queen Vulfos, the patrician who had been consenting to the death of
Protadius was killed at the villa of Fauriniacum by order of Theodoric,
and Ricomeris, a man of Roman descent succeeded him in the patriciate.”

These events may be taken as a sample of the working of the institution
of the _major domus_ in Neustria and Burgundy for the greater part of a
century. We see a king becoming more and more helpless in the presence
of the nobles and clergy whom he and his predecessors have enriched.
Theodoric II. is not personally a _fainéant_ king, but he cannot
prevent murder being committed in his name. We see a _major domus_
intent on refilling the royal treasury, and probably not scrupulous
as to the means which he employs for that purpose, nor afraid of
enriching himself at the same time as his master. We see a grasping
and turbulent aristocracy, made up of courtiers and ecclesiastics,
who are determined to keep what they have got from the crown, and to
whom both the lawful and the lawless acts of the prime minister on
behalf of his impoverished master render that minister equally odious.
The aristocracy bide their time. When the army is assembled in the
field they appeal to the old Teutonic spirit of almost democratic
independence, and slay their enemy in defiance of the king’s authority.
A sleek and supple Gallo-Roman takes the place of the murdered mayor,
and in his placid corpulence gives up the struggle, letting things
drift as they will. But the vengeance of the palace slumbers not, and
in time the aristocratic murderers of the prime minister are themselves
cut off by hands as lawless as their own. Such is Merovingian France in
the seventh century after Christ.

I have tried to indicate the general character of the _major-domat_ in
the two western kingdoms of Gaul. In Austrasia, though probably the
chief functions of the office are the same, its holder seems to look in
a different direction, and certainly arrives at a different end. The
Neustrian and Burgundian mayors of the palace are generally striving
for the rights of the crown against the aristocracy. In Austrasia they
are more often found at the head of the aristocracy and opposed to
the crown. In the western kingdoms we see indications that the _major
domus_ was often a man of humble origin, and that this was part of the
grievance of the aristocracy against him. In Austrasia he is generally
a man who, by his birth and possessions, takes a foremost place in the
realm independently of his official rank. Hence, and, from the fact
that the office was held in Austrasia by a long succession of able men
in the same family, arises the distinction already alluded to, that
in Austrasia the _major-domat_ becomes hereditary, and that it never
acquired that character in Neustria.

Lastly--and this difference is perhaps related to most of the others
which I have named, as cause is related to effect--the western kingdoms
seem at this time to have been always looked on as containing the heart
and centre of the Frankish dominion. Thus when a Frankish king had been
ruling in Austrasia with Metz for his capital, if by the death of a
father or brother he succeeded to the throne of Neustria, he generally
migrated westwards to Paris or Soissons, sometimes sending a son or a
younger brother to rule in Austrasia, sometimes seeking to rule it
from Paris. Now it is clear that there was a strong and growing feeling
in Austrasia (which was already beginning to be stirred by some of the
same sentiments as the Germany of to-day) that it would not be ruled
from Neustria (the ancestress of France). A Merovingian king, the
descendant of the Salian Clovis, it would endure, but he must rule,
not through Neustrian but through Austrasian instruments. This feeling
of national German independence was represented and championed by the
mayors of the palace of the line of Arnulf and Pippin, and to their
history we now turn.

The ancestors of Charlemagne first emerge into the light of history
at the time of the downfall of Queen Brunechildis. No student of
Frankish history can ever forget the tragic figure of that queen or
her life-long duel with her ignoble and treacherous sister-in-law
Fredegundis. While Brunechildis was still in early womanhood (576)
came reverses, the murder of her husband, imprisonment, a second
marriage, separation from the young husband whom she had so strangely
chosen, followed by his death at the bidding of Fredegundis. Meanwhile
she returned to Austrasia and ruled there for a time, first in the
name of a son, then of a grandson. Driven from thence (600) by the
turbulent aristocracy whose power she had striven to quell, she
escaped to Burgundy, and governed it for thirteen years in the name
of her grandson Theodoric. We have just seen her “instigating” the
appointment of Protadius as mayor of the palace and the punishment
of his murderers. All through these later years of her life the once
fascinating and beautiful woman seems like a lioness at bay. If Mary,
Queen of Scots, had escaped from Fotheringay, even so could we imagine
her, grown gray and hard and cruel, confronting John Knox and the
Scottish lords. Her grandsons perished early. Theodoric renewed the
war with Theudebert, defeated and slew him, but died himself at the
Austrasian capital in the year 613. And now were left of the race of
Clovis only the four infant sons of Theodoric II. and their distant
relation, Chlothair of Neustria, son of the hated Fredegundis. War was
inevitable. Which would prevail, the old lioness fighting for her cubs
or the whelp of Neustria? At this crisis the adhesion of two Austrasian
nobles to the party of Chlothair decided the day in his favor. These
two Austrasian nobles were Pippin “of Landen” and Arnulf, afterwards
Bishop of Metz.

Pippin of Landen (so called)[16] had large possessions in the country
between the Meuse and the Moselle, stretching in an easterly direction
toward the Rhine, including the forest of the Ardennes, and apparently
including also the city of Aquisgranum, which was one day to be the
home of Charlemagne. Pippin was born about 585, and was therefore
somewhere about thirty years of age when war broke out between
Brunechildis and Chlothair. His friend and contemporary, Arnulf,
born of a noble and wealthy Frankish family, had received a better
education, apparently, than fell to the lot of most of his class, and,
on the recommendation of the “sub-king” Gundulf (possibly mayor of
the palace), had been taken into the service of Theudebert, who had
assigned to him the government of six provinces. He had married a girl
of noble family, by whom he had two sons, Chlodulf and Ansigisel. The
latter was the ancestor of Charlemagne.

It was, as we are told, by the secret advice of these two men and
other nobles of Austrasia that Chlothair invaded the kingdom. However
strong might be their disinclination to the rule of a Neustrian King,
their determination not to submit again to “the hateful regimen of a
woman,” and that woman their old foe Brunechildis, was even stronger.
The folly of the old queen, who was at the same time secretly plotting
against the life of her Burgundian mayor of the palace, Warnachar,
aided their designs. When it came to the decision of battle, the
soldiers who should have defended the cause of the young king and his
great-grandmother turned their backs without striking a blow. Chlothair
had only to pursue and to capture the little princes and their
ancestress. One of the princes escaped, and was never heard of more;
another was spared as being the godson of Chlothair; two were put to
death. The aged Brunechildis was, we are told, tortured for three days
by the son of her old rival Fredegundis, led through the camp seated
on a camel, then tied by her hair, by one foot and one arm, to a most
vicious horse, and dashed to pieces by his furious career. Such were
the tender mercies of a Merovingian king.

This first appearance of Pippin and Arnulf on the stage of history is
not a noble one, yet of actual disloyalty or ingratitude they were
probably not guilty, since to Theudebert, the victim of the resentment
of Brunechildis, rather than to the family of Theodoric, his vanquisher
and murderer, they owed allegiance and gratitude. The subsequent career
of the two nobles, however, is more to their credit. In the year after
the overthrow of Brunechildis, the see of Metz having fallen vacant,
there was a general outcry among the people that none was so fitted to
fill it as Arnulf, the _domesticus_ and _consiliarius_ of the king.
There was on his part the usual tearful protestation of unfitness and
unwillingness, but the curtain fell on his acceptance of the episcopal
dignity. His biographer tells the story of his three-days’ fastings,
his hair shirt, his boundless hospitality to poor vagrants, to monks,
and to other travellers. We perceive, however, that he had not wholly
lost his interest in state affairs, for in the year 624 he, with his
friend Pippin, the _major domus_, procured the disgrace of a certain
nobleman named Chrodoald, who was charged with having abused the king’s
favor to his own enrichment and the spoliation of the estates of other
Austrasians. In the next year, too, when Dagobert I., son of Chlothair,
who had been sent to rule over a shorn and diminished Austrasia, met
his father near Paris, and had a sharp contention with him over the
narrow limits of his kingdom, it was Bishop Arnulf who, at the head of
the other bishops and nobles, succeeded in reconciling father and son.

It seems that Arnulf had for years cherished a desire to withdraw
from the world, but when he mentioned this project to Dagobert, the
young king, who greatly valued his counsels, was so incensed that he
swore that he would cut off the heads of his two sons if he dared to
leave the court. “My sons’ lives,” said the intrepid prelate, “are in
the hands of God. Your own life will not last long if you slay the
innocent.” On this the passionate young Merovingian drew his sword, and
was about to attack Arnulf, who, not heeding the wrath of the king,
said, “What are you doing, most miserable of men? Would you repay evil
for good? Here am I ready for death in obedience to His commands who
gave me life, and who died for me.” The nobles besought the king not
to give the bishop the crown of martyrdom. The queen appeared upon
the scene, and in a few moments she and Dagobert were grovelling at
Arnulf’s feet, beseeching forgiveness for the king’s offence, and
declaring that he should go when and whither he would.

So after an episcopate of fifteen years, in 629 Arnulf retired into the
recesses of the Vosges mountains, accompanied by one friend, Romaric,
once a courtier like himself, who had gone before him into the hermit
life, and who, like him, attained to the honors of saintship. The death
of Arnulf is generally placed in 640, but we have, in truth, no exact
information as to the date. We only know that Romaric survived him,
and that the body of the now canonized prelate was brought with great
pomp to the city of Metz by order of his successor in the see, and was
there interred in the church of the Holy Apostles, which has ever since
borne his name.

The _Vita Arnulfi_, from which these facts have been taken, appears
to have been the work of a contemporary (doubtless a much-admiring
contemporary), and we need not therefore here suspect that tendency
to flatter Charlemagne by magnifying the greatness of his ancestors
which has undoubtedly colored the histories of some of the members of
his family. It is certainly an interesting fact that a saint should
have been the paternal ancestor, even in the fifth degree, of so great
a statesman as Charlemagne. The standard of mediæval saintship in the
centuries with which we are dealing was not a high one, but Arnulf’s
character seems to have been pure and lofty; his retirement from the
world was due to a real longing after holiness, and on the whole we may
recognize in him a man not unworthy to be the sainted progenitor of the
Emperors of the West, even as Archbishop Philaret stands at the head of
the proud pedigree of the Russian Romanoffs.

Compared with the life of St. Arnulf, that of his friend and kinsman
Pippin is worldly and commonplace. In 622, when Chlothair II. sent his
son Dagobert to reign over Austrasia, Pippin received the dignity of
mayor of the palace under the young king. By his counsels and those
of Arnulf the Eastern realm was governed for seven years, and we are
told that this was a sort of golden age for Austrasia, in which justice
was impartially administered and prosperity prevailed. Possibly these
results were not obtained without some sacrifice of Pippin’s popularity
with his brother nobles. When Dagobert, on his father’s death (in 629),
removed to Paris, his character we are told, underwent a change. He
fell into vice and dissipation, and lost the respect of his retainers.
Pippin apparently tried to mediate between him and them, and shared the
usual fate of mediators, earning the hatred of both parties. “The zeal
of the Austrasians surged up so vehemently against him that they tried
to make him odious in Dagobert’s eyes, that he might even be slain,
but the love of justice and the fear of God, which he had diligently
embraced, freed him from all evils.” However, it seems that he,
together with other Austrasian nobles, was kept in a sort of honorable
captivity in Neustria during the rest of the days of Dagobert (from 630
to 638), and that not till the latter date did he return to Austrasia.
Evidently there was already an uneasy feeling on the part of the
Frankish ruler dwelling at Paris that these great Austrasian potentates
would one day give him or his descendants a sharp struggle for the

For one year after his return Pippin swayed the affairs of the
Austrasian palace, acting always in concert with Cunibert, Bishop of
Cologne, who had succeeded to the same position of spiritual prime
minister which had formerly been held by St. Arnulf. Together they
presided over the division of the treasures of the late king, assigning
one-third to his widow, Nantildis; one-third to his son, Clovis II.,
who succeeded him in Neustria, and one-third (which with jealous care
was at once conveyed to Metz) to his other son, Sigibert III., who
ruled in Austrasia. In 640 Pippin died, greatly regretted, we are told,
by all the men of Austrasia, whose hearts he had won by his goodness
and love of justice. Possibly during his enforced absence from the
realm the Austrasian nobles had learned that the strong hand under
which they had chafed was, after all, needed for the welfare of the

Some years apparently before the death of Pippin the alliance between
the two great Austrasian chiefs had been cemented by a marriage between
Adelgisel, son of St. Arnulf, and a daughter of Pippin, who was
probably named Becga. From this marriage sprang the second Pippin, the
great-grandfather of Charlemagne.

Adelgisel himself was mayor of the palace for a few years before the
return of his father-in-law, but he seems to have been a somewhat
insignificant person, and is overshadowed in history by the sanctity
of his father and the success of his son.

A much more important figure is his brother-in-law, Grimwald, son of
Pippin of Landen, who three years after his father’s death succeeded
by a deed of blood perpetrated by one of his adherents, in obtaining
the coveted mayoralty. For thirteen years, or thereabouts, he acted
as _major domus_ to the weak but devout Sigibert III., the first
of the absolutely _fainéant_ kings. Then, in 656, on the death of
Sigibert, Grimwald deemed that the time had come for ending the farce
of Merovingian royalty, shaved off the long locks of Dagobert, his dead
master’s son, sent him, under the escort of the Bishop of Poitiers,
to a monastery in Ireland, and proclaimed his own son, to whom he had
given the Merovingian name of Childebert, King of the Eastern Franks.
He was, however, a century too soon. The glamour which hung round
the descendants of the great Clovis had as yet not utterly vanished,
neither had the Pippins and the Arnulfs yet done such great deeds as
to give them any title to claim the Frankish throne. “The Franks,”
says the chronicler, “being very indignant hereat, prepared snares for
Grimwald, and, taking him prisoner, carried him for condemnation to
Clovis II., King of the Franks. In the city of Paris he was confined in
a dungeon and bound with torturing chains; and at length, as he was
worthy of death for what he had done to his lord, death finished him
with mighty torments.”

This premature clutch at royalty seems to have damaged for a long time
the fortunes of the Austrasian house. In fact, we hear no more of the
descendants of Pippin in the male line; it is through the Arnulfings,
the posterity of Grimwald’s sister, that the fortunes of the family
will one day revive.

The thirty-two years that follow (656–688) are perhaps the dreariest in
all Frankish history. The kings, as has been said, were little better
than idiots; Austrasia was probably a prey to anarchy and dissension;
the strong and warlike races on the eastern frontier which had been
harnessed to the car of the Frankish monarchy were rapidly breaking
their bonds. The Wends, beyond the Elbe, under a Frankish commercial
traveller named Samo (who had made himself their king, and who had
twelve wives and thirty-seven children), had inflicted a crushing
defeat on Dagobert. Dagobert’s son, Sigibert, had been defeated by
Radulfus, Duke of the Thuringians, with such a fearful slaughter of the
Franks as moved the youthful king to tears. The Alamanni were growing
restless, the Dukes of the Bavarians were making themselves practically
independent. The situation of the Frankish realm in these later years
of the seventh century was becoming like the situation of the Mogul
Empire when Clive landed in India--an old monarchy founded on force,
and long held together by fear, but now fast falling into decomposition
and ruin through the utter loss of power in its heart.

It will be hardly necessary to waste another word on the nominal
occupants of the Frankish throne. Here, from the pages of the slightly
later years _Liber Historiæ Francorum_, is a picture of the reign of
Clovis II., son of Dagobert, who reigned over Neustria and Burgundy
from 638 to 656.

“At that time Chlodoveus (Clovis), at the instigation of the devil,
broke off an arm of the blessed martyr Dionysius. At that time the
kingdom of the Franks fell under many pestilential disasters. But
Clovis himself was given up to every kind of filthy conversation, a
fornicator and a deceiver of womankind, happy in his gluttony and
drunkenness. As to his death history records nothing worth repeating,
for many writers speak in condemnatory language concerning his end, but
not knowing exactly how his wickedness was terminated, they talk in an
uncertain way, one saying one thing and another another.”

For the next quarter of a century after the death of Clovis II. the
canvas is fully filled by the great figure of Ebroin, who was during
many years mayor of the palace for Neustria and Burgundy, and during
a short time for Austrasia also. Thus the same results, which in the
next generation were secured by the ancestor of Charlemagne, seemed
for a time to have been obtained by the Neustrian Ebroin. Originally
raised to the dignity of mayor of the palace by something like a vote
of the Frankish nobles, he used his power, when he felt himself settled
in his seat, in a spirit of strenuous hostility to the aristocracy,
both spiritual and temporal. That it was absolutely necessary in
the interest of the kingdom that some stand should be made against
the increasing pretensions of the counts and bishops there can be
little doubt, but how far Ebroin acted in the interests of king and
kingdom, and how far in those of his own avarice and ambition, it is
now hopeless to determine. He was evidently a hard and unscrupulous
man, but we have always to remember in reading the vituperative
adjectives which are attached to his name that his story is written
by ecclesiastics, and that he showed himself their constant opponent.
Especially was he brought into collision with the astute and able
Leodegarius, Bishop of Autun, who in the year 670, successfully using
the name of the puppet king of Austrasia, overthrew Ebroin and his
puppet, and sent the fallen _major domus_ with tonsured head into
retirement at Luxeuil. For three years Bishop Leodegarius ruled as
practically, if not nominally, _major domus_ of Burgundy; then he
too fell into disgrace, became involved in an ignoble squabble with
another canonized bishop, Patricius of Clermont, fled from the court,
was taken captive and sent to rejoin his former rival in the monastery
of Luxeuil. The assassination of Childeric, the Austrasian king (a
crime which Leodegarius was afterwards accused of having prompted),
led to a turn in the wheel of fortune. Leodegarius and Ebroin escaped
from the monastery and succeeded in getting hold of the person of the
last surviving son of Clovis II. In his name Ebroin again ruled as
_major domus_ in Neustria and Burgundy (674) but the alliance between
him and his late fellow-prisoner was of short duration. Leodegarius
was seized and blinded, and four years afterwards put to death. This
Bishop of Autun was evidently a mere politician, like his far more
famous successor, Talleyrand. He had less than Talleyrand’s luck,
and it may perhaps be admitted that, if he were not really privy to
the assassination of Childeric, his punishment was somewhat harder
than that usually meted out even in those days to politicians who had
failed. But it is not without a slight feeling of surprise that we find
this turbulent bishop transformed into a saint and martyr, and discover
that Leodegarius, Bishop of Autun, is none other than the St. Leger
whose name, among all those of mediæval saints, is perhaps the most
often heard from the lips of Englishmen.[17]

Restored to power, Ebroin kept his _major-domat_ in Neustria and
Burgundy for seven years (674–681). The same monastic biographer who
pours upon his memory the names “devil,” “viper,” “cruel lion,” and
“son of damnation,” confesses at the close of his career that “he had
acquired such sublime glory as fell to the lot of no other Frank.”
About the year 679 there was civil war between the eastern and western
kingdoms, and the leaders of the Austrasian army were Pippin and
Martin. The former was the nobleman who is commonly called Pippin of
Heristal, the grandson of St. Arnulf and Pippin of Landen; the latter
was perhaps a kinsman of the Arnulfing line. Thus after more than
twenty years of obscuration the great Austrasian house was once again
coming to the front. Not yet, however, did victory shine upon their
banners. Ebroin and his puppet king met them in battle near Laon: “An
infinite crowd of people there rushed together to the fight; but the
Austrasians, being conquered, turned their backs and fled. Ebroin
pursued them with most cruel slaughter and laid waste the greater part
of that region.” Pippin escaped to Austrasia; Martin sought a refuge
in Laon, but was tempted forth by Ebroin, who swore, apparently on the
relics of the saints, that his life should be safe if he surrendered.
Unfortunately for the suppliant the coffers, which were thought
to contain the sacred dust, were really empty, and Ebroin put his
outwitted victim to death with all his associates.

At last about the year 681 private vengeance ended the career of the
great Neustrian Mayor. A certain nobleman named Ermenfrid, whose
property Ebroin had confiscated, waited for him at his house door
one Sunday morning as he was just setting out for mass, drew his
sword, struck him a mortal blow on the head, and escaped to Pippin
in Austrasia. The death of Ebroin meant apparently the ascendency of
the eastern family. After some revolutions which it is not necessary
to describe, a certain Berchar, “a man of little stature, of base
education, useless in counsel,” was chosen by the misguided nobles
of Neustria as mayor of the palace. Against this Berchar and his
king, Theodoric III., Pippin of Heristal marched with a mighty host
of Austrasians. Battle was joined at a place called Textricium, now
Testri, not far from St. Quentin. Berchar and his king fled from the
field. The former was slain (“by his flatterers,” says the chronicler),
and Pippin became practically lord of the whole Frankish dominion. This
event, as to the details of which we know next to nothing, but which
was of immense importance for the future destinies of Europe, happened
in 687. About seventy years after their first appearance in history
the Arnulfings have won for themselves that high place which they will
now hold in defiance of all foes till they have won a yet higher, the
highest in Christendom.



Thus at last was supreme power in the Frankish kingdom concentrated
in the hands of that family of statesmen who were to hold it for two
centuries. I have been somewhat minute in tracing the history of the
Neustrian Mayoralty, but in the Austrasian kingdom it seems to have
been rather as great nobles than as Mayors of the Palace that the
Arnulfings rose to eminence. When Pippin won the battle of Testri he
had no Austrasian king in whose name he could fight, and he seems to
have been known simply as _Dux_ or _Princeps Francorum_, not as _Major
Domus_ of Austrasia. From the scanty and imperfect indications of the
chroniclers and the biographers of saints, it would seem that before
688 all the Eastern portion of the Frankish kingdom was (as I have
already said) in a state of disintegration, and that Pippin, if he had
been so minded, might have followed the example of the chiefs of the
Frisians, Thuringians, and Bavarians, by setting up for himself as a
virtually independent Duke of Austrasia. What constitutes the peculiar
world historical importance of this Arnulfing is that he was not
satisfied with this easy solution of the problem before him, but using
his great position in Austrasia as a lever made himself supreme also in
Neustria and Burgundy, and then as _major domus_ of a legitimate though
utterly effete Merovingian king, compelled the unruly chiefs on the
Eastern frontier to return to their old allegiance, and thus became in
fact the second founder of the Frankish monarchy. That monarchy seems
indeed to us who labor through its barbarous annals about as miserable
a political machine as the Aryan notions have ever invented; but,
however bad it may have been, it was probably the best that could then
be contrived for the united government of the countries between the Bay
of Biscay and the mountains of Bohemia; and for the time it was all
important for Europe that these countries should still form part of one

For some years Pippin ruled the Western realm by means of a royal
adherent, Nordbert, to whom however he did not concede the fateful
title of mayor. About fourteen years after the battle of Testri we find
his son Grimwald recognized as _major domus_ for Neustria and probably
his eldest son Drogo held the same office in Burgundy. Meanwhile
Pippin, returning to his own Austrasian lands, was warring down the
German pretenders to independence. The Frisian Ratbod was defeated in
a great battle, compelled to cede West Friesland to the Franks, and to
acknowledge in fact as well as in name the supremacy of the Merovingian
_fainéant_. Though himself a heathen, Ratbod was fain to give his
daughter--who was no doubt converted to Christianity--in marriage
to Pippin’s son Grimwald; and the Anglo-Saxon preacher Willibrord
had a clear course given him for his missionary operations among the
Frisians. So too the Alamanni and the Bavarians appear to have been
brought back into subjection by Pippin, though we hear less of his
operations on the Danube than by the mouths of the Rhine.

For twenty-seven years this strong and statesmanlike man ruled with
absolute sway the kingdom of the Franks, and then in his old age, by
one act of supreme folly, went near to ruining the whole achievement
of a lifetime. As it was said of old, “Let no man be called happy,”
so may we add, “Let no man be called wise, till his death.” He had
married in early life a lady named Plectrudis, nobly born and with a
reputation for prudence and ability, by whom he had two sons, Drogo and
Grimwald. Drogo had died in 708, leaving two sons who were now grown
up to manhood. Grimwald, who had married, as before said, a Frisian
princess, had no son by her, but was the father of an illegitimate son,
a little child named Theudwald.

As for Pippin himself, like many other members of his house, though
descended from the sainted Arnulf, and generally on very good terms
with the Church, he seems to have been guilty of great laxity in
his matrimonial relations. Assuredly the Arnulfings did not plunge
into those excesses of profligacy which destroyed the vigor of the
Merovingian line, yet there was a tendency in many of them to take a
polygamous view of marriage, more suited to an Arabian Caliph than
to a Christian nobleman. Thus we find that Pippin had another wife
named Alphaida, who, though the relationship was an interlude in his
married life with Plectrudis, is yet treated by the chroniclers not
as a concubine, but as a lawfully wedded wife. To a son born of this
marriage Pippin had given the name of Charles. According to an old
Saga, when the child was born, the messenger came into the presence
of the great mayor of the palace and, dismayed at seeing him sitting
with Plectrudis by his side, shouted out “Long live the king. It is a
Carl,” the old German word for a man. “And a very good name, too,” said
Pippin. “Let him be called Carl.” This Charles, son of Alphaida, was in
the year 714 a strong and vigorous man of between twenty and thirty,
already married and father of an eight-year-old son.

Now, when the aged Pippin was lying on that which was to prove his
death-bed (at the villa of Jovius near Liège), his son Grimwald, a
man “pitiful, moderate, and just,” who was his universally recognized
heir, was on his way to visit him and receive his last commands, when
for some unknown reason he was assassinated in a church at Liège by a
heathen named Rangar. This was a cruel blow for the dying chieftain,
but as far as the future of his house was concerned not an irreparable
one. His obvious policy was to declare that Charles, the son of
Alphaida, was to be his heir in room of the murdered Grimwald. Instead
of this, influenced no doubt by his wife’s hatred of her step-son, he
committed the inconceivable folly of passing over Charles, and naming,
not even one of Drogo’s adolescent sons, but the childish Theudwald,
son of Grimwald, his heir, and designating him for the mayoralty
under the regency of Plectrudis. This was an absolutely preposterous
arrangement and one foredoomed to failure. The Merovingian king,
_fainéant_ of course, but a lad of fifteen years old, was to have a
little child of eight thrust upon him as adviser, factotum, supreme
prime minister, and the nominal advice of the baby was to be given
through the lips of his grandmother, a harsh and domineering old woman.
Such a scheme of administering the affairs of a great kingdom crumbled,
as it was sure to crumble, at the first contact with actual fact.

“Plectrudis,” we are told by the chronicler, “with her grandsons and
the king governed all things by her discreet rule.” One of the early
acts of this discreet rule was to shut up her step-son Charles in
prison. But deliverance for the Arnulfing house came from an unexpected
quarter. The nobles of Neustria, indignant, probably, at being calmly
transferred to the dominion of a beldame and a child, proclaimed one
of their own class, a certain Raginfrid, _major domus_ and supported
his pretensions with an army. Neustria and Austrasia met in battle at
the Cotian Forest, not far from Compiègne, and Nuestria won a decided
victory, the baby mayor, who had been brought into the field at the
head of the Austrasian _leudes_, being with difficulty carried off by
his partisans. Raginfrid pressed on and formed an alliance with old
Ratbod, the Frisian, and apparently with the Saxons also. Plectrudis,
shut up in Cologne, saw her power slipping from her and the Austrasian
state threatened with ruin. The disorganization which everywhere
prevailed had at least this advantage, that in the confusion Charles
escaped from his prison (715). He gathered round him some of his
father’s adherents: he fought Raginfrid, his puppet king, and the
Frisians: fought them at first unsuccessfully, for they pushed on to
Cologne where Plectrudis was fain to purchase peace for herself and her
grandsons by the surrender of a large part of the royal hoard. After
this she and Theudwald disappear from history. Charles, whose powers
of recovery the Neustrians appear to have under-rated, follows them
westwards in 716 and wins a great victory over them at Amblève and
another next year at Vincy. Raginfrid sees no prospect of defending
his puppet king (to whom Charles has set up a rival) except by seeking
the help of Eudo, the great Duke of Aquitaine, who as a practically
independent sovereign, is ruling all the region south of the Loire.
Eudo and Raginfrid join forces and advance as far as Soissons (719):
then for some unexplained cause Eudo turns back and leaves Raginfrid
to face the enemy alone. Charles wins a third great victory, and now
Raginfrid’s resistance is practically at an end. He submits on certain
conditions to Charles, who becomes (in 720) unquestioned _major domus_
of all three kingdoms, while Raginfrid subsides eventually into some
such position as Count of Angers, where he prolongs his resistance
till 724.

The Arnulfing hero who out of such a chaos of opposing forces succeeded
in evoking that order and stable government which the Frankish State
so greatly needed, received, apparently from his contemporaries, the
name of Martel or the Hammer. This epithet, which has been sometimes
connected with his great victory[18] over the Saracens, seems to be
more truly derived from his exploits in the earlier part of his career,
destroying as he did with his smashing blows, the petty tyrannies which
had grown up in the anarchy that followed the death of his father.

It is worthy of note that Charles, unlike his father, did not delegate
his mayoralty in Neustria and Burgundy to any one, even a son, and that
he styled himself _major domus_ for Austrasia as well as for the other
kingdoms, a title which for some reason seems not to have been claimed
by his father. It is also noteworthy that he finally got the needed
Merovingian _fainéant_ into his possession by a compromise with Eudo
of Aquitaine who had carried him off from the unfought battlefield of
Soissons. There are many indications that both Eudo and Charles felt
the necessity of sparing one another’s strength and not pushing any
dispute between them to extremities, in view of the far more tremendous
danger which threatened them and all Christendom from the turbaned
followers of the Prophet who were now beginning to swarm over the
passes of the Pyrenees.

It was in 711, three years before Pippin’s death, that the Visigothic
monarchy of Spain fell before the Moslem invader. In 716 the Moors
seem to have first entered Gaul in detached squadrons. In 720, the
year after the campaign of Soissons, they invaded Gaul in force, took
Narbonne and established themselves in the old Visigothic province of
Septimania, from which they were not finally dislodged for nearly forty
years. They besieged Toulouse with many great engines of war, and their
retreat from this place, compelled by the appearance of Duke Eudo with
an army, may be noted as the first sign of ebb in the tide of Moslem
conquest in Western Europe.

It was, however, twelve years before the Mussulman’s hope of adding
Gaul to the Empire of the Caliph received its death-stroke. In 725 they
penetrated as far as Autun, in the very heart of Burgundy, demolished
the city and carried off the treasures of the Church to Spain. The
vigilance of Eudo of Aquitaine seems to have relaxed, and he was now no
longer, as in 720, the great champion of Gaulish Christendom against
the invader. On the contrary he entered into friendly relations with at
least one Mussulman warrior, bestowing his daughter Lampegia on Munuza,
a Berber chieftain, who seems to have been striving to establish a
Moorish kingdom in Spain independent of the Caliphs. It was perhaps
owing to this new combination that Eudo broke through the treaty
which he had made with Charles in 720. There were thus two princes, a
Christian and a Moor, Eudo and Munuza, each rebelling against the state
to which they nominally owed allegiance. However, neither attempt at
independence was destined to succeed: Charles twice crossed the Loire
in the year 731, defeated Eudo in battle, apparently near the city of
Bourges, and returned home with great booty, having effectually checked
the separatist designs of the Aquitanian chief. About the same time
apparently, Abderrahman, the legitimate representative of the Caliph
of Damascus, overthrew the Berber chief Munuza and hunted him into the
Pyrenees, where he was overtaken while resting by a fountain. Munuza
fell pierced with many wounds, and his bride, Eudo’s daughter, was sent
to end her days in the Caliph’s harem.

Thus then were all the side issues disposed of, and the ground was
cleared for the great, the real issue between the Mohammedan power
reaching from Damascus to the Pyrenees, and the Christian power which
was embodied in the Frankish monarchy, but whose central point was
now to be found in the home of the great _major domus_ by the Rhine.
Abderrahman, a brave and capable warrior, the chief who alone had
gotten glory out of the great expedition of 720, when he led the beaten
host back from Toulouse, prepared a great armament for the conquest of
Gaul, and in the spring of 732 started from Pampelona on an expedition,
as full of meaning for the future history of the human race as was that
armament of Xerxes which found its doom at Salamis. The overflowing
flood of the Islamites soon spread beyond the limits of Gascony. In
Perigord Eudo met them, Eudo now cured of all desire to coalesce with
the Mussulman and probably longing to revenge Lampegia’s wrongs on
her captor, Abderrahman. He was, however, utterly defeated by the
banks of the river Vienne and lost the greater part of his army. The
Moorish host pushed on towards the Loire; and now, had the Frankish
monarchy been in the same condition as seventeen years before, with
Neustria and Austrasia divided against one another, and the Austrasian
_major-domat_ put in commission between an old woman and a child, the
Moorish invasion must to all appearance have carried everything before
it. But when Abderrahman had reached Poitiers, and burnt the Church
of St. Hilary, the tide of his success was stayed. Eudo, a fugitive
and despairing, had sought the help of his late adversary Charles, and
the great _major domus_ with a host of stout-hearted Austrasians was
posted between the rivers Clain and Vienne, blocking the old Roman road
from Poitiers to Tours. For seven days the armies stood watching one
another, while Abderrahman was probably trying to turn the Frankish
position. Then at last, on a certain Saturday in October, finding
that only the sword could open up the road, he sent the masses of his
turbaned followers against the Frankish position. In vain they dashed
against that moveless barrier. “The Northern nations,” says the Spanish
Chronicler Isidore,[19] “stood immovable as a wall, or as if frozen
to their places by the rigorous breath of winter, but hewing down the
Arabs with their swords. But when the Austrasian people by the might
of their massive limbs, and with iron hands striking straight from the
chest their strenuous blows, had laid multitudes of the enemy low, at
last they found the king [Abderrahman], and robbed him of life. Then
night disparted the combatants, the Franks brandishing their swords
on high in scorn of the enemy. Next day, rising at earliest dawn and
seeing the innumerable tents of the Arabs all ranged in order before
them, the Europeans prepared for fight, deeming that within those tents
were the phalanxes of the enemy; but sending forth their scouts they
found that the hosts of the Ishmaelites had fled away silently under
cover of the night, seeking their own country. Fearing, however, a
feigned flight, and a sudden return by hidden ways, they circled round
and round with amazed caution and thus the invaders escaped, but the
Europeans after dividing the spoils and the captives in orderly manner
among themselves returned with gladness to their homes.”

So, in uncouth and not always intelligible words, does the Spanish
ecclesiastic tell the story of that great day, which decided that
not the Koran but the Gospel was to be the guide of the conscience
of Europe. To Charles Martel and his stalwart Austrasians struggling
through that terrible Saturday in October,[20] is it due that the
muezzin is not at noon to-day calling the faithful to prayer from some
high minaret by the Seine. It was said that the Franks on this day slew
375,000 Saracens, losing only 1500 of their own men. The numbers are
evidently but a wild and baseless guess, but the strange thing is that
they could be thus reported by a sober and cautious historian, and one
not of the Frankish nation (Paulus Diaconus),[21] writing barely sixty
years after the date of the famous victory.

The Moslem invaders were weakened, but not absolutely crushed by
this great encounter. They still kept their hold on the sea-coast of
Languedoc, the region which having been for three centuries in the
possession of the Visigoths was still known as Gothia. In 737 they
crossed the Rhone, and forming a league with a certain Maurontus (who
was perhaps Duke of Provence), they obtained possession of the strongly
fortified city of Avignon. Charles, whose normal occupation was warfare
with the Frisians and Saxons, was recalled from the Rhine-lands in
order to do battle with the Islamite in the valley of the Rhone.
Avignon was recaptured and Charles marched on to Narbonne, the citadel
of the Saracen power in Gaul. But though he defeated the Mussulmans in
a great battle by the sea-coast, he failed to take Narbonne. Nismes and
several other towns in Languedoc were recovered from the misbelievers;
their walls were demolished, and the great amphitheatre of Nismes was
somehow dismantled so as to prevent its again affording cover to the
enemy, but Narbonne was still Islamite at the death of Charles.

In the same year in which this encounter took place, died Theodoric
IV., the _fainéant_ Merovingian who for seventeen years had been the
figure-head at the prow of the vessel of the State. Charles did not
covet the mere name of royalty, nor was he disposed to imitate the
disastrous example of his great-uncle Grimwald; but, as the needful
Childeric or Chilperic was not at the time forthcoming, he dispensed
with the luxury of a _roi fainéant_, and for the remaining four years
of his life reigned alone, mayor of a palace in which no king was to be

The career of Charles Martel was now drawing to a close. He was again,
in 738, recalled from his operations against the Saxons, by tidings of
the invasion of Provence by the Saracens in league with the turbulent
Maurontus. For that year the danger was averted by the help of the
Lombard king Liutprand, the friend and brother-in-law of Charles. Next
year Charles himself invaded Provence with a large army, brought the
whole of that beautiful land into real instead of nominal subjection
to the Frankish State, and broke the power of Maurontus, who, a hunted
fugitive, escaped with difficulty over the craggy cliffs of the
Riviera, which are now linked together by the great highway of the

But, this exploit performed, Charles began to sicken. He was still
little more than fifty years of age, but his incessant wars his rapid
marches and counter-marches between the German Ocean and the Pyrenees
had worn out his strenuous frame. The hammer would strike no more blows
for the welding together of the Frankish State. The piteous appeals
of Pope Gregory III., who implored his assistance against the Lombard
assailants of Rome, fell on unwilling ears. Charles had something
else now to do than to cross the Alps and wage war on his friend and
kinsman Liutprand, who had been his helper against the Islamites,
and to whom he had sent his son Pippin to be adopted as his _filius
per arma_, a ceremony similar to the bestowal of knighthood in a
later day. In 740 the extraordinary fact is recorded, that no warlike
expedition was undertaken by the Franks. The great _major domus_ seems
to have been chiefly occupied in arranging for the partition of his
territories--they were now without hesitation called his--among his
three sons. On the 22d of October, 741, he died at his villa of Quierzy
on the Oise, and was buried in that great abbey of St. Denis, which
was to receive the corpses of so many sovereigns of his own and other

Though the descendant of the sainted Arnulf though the champion of
Christendom against the Saracens, and the strong protector of the
“apostles” who, relying on the sharpness of the Frankish battle-axe,
went forth to convert the heathen Frisians and Saxons, Charles Martel
was looked upon with no favor by the ecclesiastics of his time. By
the grants of _fainéant_ kings and honorable women, the possessions
of the Church in Gaul had grown so enormously as to weaken the
resources of the kingdom, and Charles found himself, or believed
himself, compelled to lay his hand upon some of all this accumulated
wealth for the defence of Gaul and Christendom. He did it in the most
dangerous way for the Church, not by revoking grants or imposing taxes
on ecclesiastical property, but by conferring prelacies and abbacies
on trusty friends and followers of his own, men who were without any
pretensions to the spiritual character, but upon whom he might rely
to use the Church’s wealth on the right side. Thus, we find already
emerging the question which three or four centuries later in the days
of Hildebrand and the Franconian Emperors, took peace from the earth.
It is easy to see how such a manner of disposing of ecclesiastical
property would rouse the opposition of all that was highest as well
as of all that was lowest in the Gaulish Church, of genuine zeal for
holiness as well as of mere greed and worldly ambition. Thus it came
to pass, that while the rest of the Arnulfing line were venerated as
friends and patrons of the Church, Charles Martel fared more hardly at
her hands, and the superstition of the times--

    “Doomed him to the Zealot’s ready hell,
    Which” pleads the Church’s claims “so eloquently well.”

In the next century a libellous vision was forged by a famous
archbishop,[22] according to which a prelate saw Charles Martel
suffering the torments of hell, and, on asking the cause, was told that
it was his allotted penalty for seizing on the domains of the Church.
The dreaming prelate, on awaking, went, so it was said, to the abbey of
St. Denis and opened Charles’s tomb, but found no corpse therein, only
a blackened shell, out of which a winged dragon rushed and flew rapidly



The unity of the Frankish State, so dearly purchased by the heroic
labors of Charles Martel, was as usual placed in jeopardy by the dying
ruler’s arrangements for the succession to that which was now openly
spoken of as his “principatus.”

He left two sons, Carloman and Pippin, by his first wife Hrotrudis, and
one, Grifo, by a Bavarian princess named Swanahild, whom he had married
after an invasion of her country, and whose sister was the wife of the
Lombard king Liutprand.

This was the manner in which Charles Martel divided his dominions
among his sons. To the eldest, Carloman, he gave the greater part of
Austrasia, Alamannia, and Thuringia; to Pippin, the younger, Neustria,
Burgundy and Provence. Apparently both Aquitaine in the south-west,
and Bavaria in the south-east were too nearly independent to be thus
disposed of by a ruler who, after all, was still, in theory only the
chief adviser of a Merovingian king, though that king’s royalty was
for the present in abeyance.

To Grifo, whose turbulent attempts at insurrection aided by his mother
Swanahild, had troubled the last years of Charles, who assigned a small
central state carved out of all the three realms, Austrasia, Neustria,
and Burgundy, at their point of meeting. “As to this third portion,”
says the chronicler, “which the dying prince had assigned to the young
man Grifo, the Franks were sorely displeased that by the advice of a
wicked woman they should be cut up and separated from the lawful heirs.
Taking counsel together and joining with them the princes Carloman and
Pippin, they collected an army for the capture of Grifo, who, hearing
of their intent, took to flight, together with his mother Swanahild
and all who were willing to follow him, and all shut themselves up in
Lugdunum Clavatum (Laon). But Grifo, seeing that he could not possibly
escape, surrendered himself to the keeping of his brothers. Carloman
receiving the captive sent him to be kept in safe custody at the New
Castle (Neuf Château in the Ardennes): and they placed Swanahild in the
monastery of Cala (Chelles near Paris.)”

We shall rapidly pass in review the events which led to the
concentration of the whole power of the State in the hands of Pippin
alone, but first we must notice that for some unexplained reason,
possibly in order to give them a better title to the obedience of
Aquitaine and Bavaria, the princely brothers decided to bring the
kingless period to an end. In 743 Childeric III. was placed on the
throne. He was probably about twenty years of age, but the date of
his birth, and even his place in the royal pedigree are doubtful. Of
his character, of course, we know nothing. He is but the shadow of a
shadow, this last Merovingian king.

Very different from shadows were the two Arnulfing brothers, as they
warred with Hunald, Duke of Aquitaine (son of their father’s old
troubler Eudo), with Odilo, Duke of Bavaria, with the heathen Saxons,
with the restless and disloyal Alamanni. Of the two brothers, Pippin
seems to have been somewhat the gentler. It was Carloman the strong and
stern warrior, who, infuriated by the faithlessness of the Alamanni,
entered their territory, called a muster of their warriors at Cannstadt
(near Stuttgart), and then surrounding them by his Franks, disarmed
them, and slew many of their leaders. The accounts of this assembly at
Cannstadt are dark and perplexing, but on comparing them it certainly
seems probable that there was great severity on the part of Carloman,
probably treachery and possibly widespread slaughter.

Was it remorse for this bloody deed which changed the character
and career of Carloman? It is not expressly so said by any of the
chroniclers, yet the statement seems a probable inference from their
meagre notices. For it was in the same year (746) in which the strange
transaction with the Alamanni had taken place at Cannstadt that
Carloman began to talk to his brother Pippin concerning his desire to
relinquish the world and devote himself to the service of Almighty God:
“Therefore both the brothers made their preparations, Carloman that he
might go to the threshold of the apostles Peter and Paul, and Pippin
that his brother might make the journey with all honor and splendid

Carloman’s decision to embrace the monastic life was not an unexampled
sacrifice for a ruler in that day. Sixty years before, Ceadwalla, King
of the West Saxons, and twenty years before, his royal kinsman Ine
had left their palaces and come to live and die as tonsured monks in
Rome. Two years before Carloman’s abdication, Hunald of Aquitaine, and
three years after it, Ratchis the Lombard took the same step. Still,
the splendid position which Carloman abandoned, and the lowliness of
his demeanor after his abdication, touched and awed the hearts of his

In 747 Carloman formally renounced his share of power, and went with
along train of nobles and with costly presents in his hand to Rome, “to
the threshold of the apostle Peter.” There he submitted to the tonsure
and received the clerical habit from Pope Zacharias. After a time, by
the pope’s advice, he withdrew to the mountain solitude of Soracte,
twenty-eight miles from Rome, where he erected a monastery in honor
of St. Sylvester. This saint was the Bishop of Rome who, according
to an ecclesiastical fable which was just at this time obtaining
wide currency, received from the Emperor Constantine the celebrated
“Donation” of Rome and the larger part of Italy. The fable also related
that Sylvester had previously sought a refuge in Mount Soracte from
the persecution ordained by Constantine while still a Pagan, and had
afterwards cured that emperor of leprosy by directing him to a pool
on the mountain in which he was to perform a threefold immersion. It
need hardly be said that all this is utterly valueless as history, but
as it was in that uncritical age accepted as unquestioned truth, the
fact that the enthusiast Carloman sought the solitudes of Soracte for
the place of his retirement and there dedicated his monastery to St.
Sylvester is important as showing what was passing in the minds of men,
and especially of devout Frankish princes in that age. Later on, he
left his mountain home in Soracte and sought the far-famed monastery
of St. Benedict on Monte Cassino. Tradition said that he fled thither
by night, with one faithful squire, his companion from infancy, and
with no sign of his once high dignity. Knocking at the door of the
convent he desired speech with the abbot, and when that dignitary
appeared, threw himself on the ground before him, confessing that
he was a murderer and praying to be allowed to expiate his crime by
repentance in the monastery. The abbot, seeing that he was a foreigner
asked him of his race and country. “I am a Frank,” said Carloman, “and
for my crime I have left my native land of Francia. I heed not exile
if only I may not fail of the heavenly fatherland.” He was received
into the cell of the novices with his companion and was subjected to
severe discipline, as became a man of barbarous race and unknown name,
for the abbot was mindful of the apostolic precept, “Try the spirits
whether they are of God.” To all these hardships and humiliations
Carloman submitted with exemplary patience. It chanced at last that it
fell to his lot as a novice to take a week’s turn in the kitchen of the
convent. He did his work zealously but made many blunders, for which
the head cook, heated with wine, rewarded him with a slap on the face.
Meekly the princely scullion replied, “Is that how you ought to serve
the brethren? May God pardon you, my brother, and Carloman too.” The
last words were perhaps uttered under his breath, for he had not yet
revealed his name to any one. A second and a third time this incident
was repeated, and on the last occasion the cook’s blows were cruel
and brutal. His faithful squire could then bear the sight no longer.
He snatched up the pestle with which the bread was being pounded for
the brethren’s soup, and struck the head cook with all his might,
saying, “Neither may God spare thee, vile slave, nor may Carloman
forgive thee.” Then followed uproar, indignation at the foreigner’s
presumption, arrest, imprisonment. Next day the squire was set in the
midst of the assembled monks and asked why he had dared to stretch
forth his hand against a serving brother. “Because,” he answered, “I
was indignant at seeing a slave, the meanest of mankind, not only flout
and jeer, but actually strike a man, the best and noblest of all that
I have ever met with on the earth.” The angry monks demanded who was
this man whom he, a foreigner, dared to rank before all others, not
even excepting the abbot himself. Thus was the truth forced out of him,
since it was the will of God that it should no longer be concealed.
“That man is Carloman, formerly ruler of the Franks, who, for the love
of Christ hath left his kingdom and the glory of the world: who from
such high estate has so humbled himself as to be subject not only to
the insults but even to the blows of the vilest of men.” Then the monks
rose from their seats in terror and prostrated themselves at the feet
of Carloman, imploring his forgiveness for aught that they might have
done to him in ignorance of his rank. Vainly did he in turn grovel on
the earth before them and try to assure them that his comrade had lied
and that he was not Carloman. He was recognized by all, held in the
highest reverence, and as we shall afterwards see, was selected by the
abbot for an important mission.

On the abdication of Carloman, Grifo was liberated by Pippin from his
imprisonment which had lasted six years, received by him in his palace
with every mark of honor and affection, and invested with several
countships and large revenues. This was not enough, however, for Grifo,
who probably aspired to an equal share of his father’s late dominions.
He allied himself with the Saxons and shared their defeat in battle
(748); he sought refuge in Bavaria, and for a time made himself duke of
that country (749); expelled from thence by Pippin he betook himself
first to Aquitaine and then to the King of the Lombards, but was met at
Maurienne by Count Theodowin, who was guarding the passes of the Alps
in the Frankish interest. A skirmish followed, in which many Frankish
nobles fell, Grifo himself and Theodowin among them (753). There was no
further obstacle raised by any member of the Arnulfing family to the
sole domination of Pippin.

Fateful for all the after-history of Europe were the middle years of
the eighth century, upon which we have now entered. The time had at
last come when Pippin, virtual sovereign of Gaul and Western Germany,
could venture to take the step which had proved fatal to his kinsman
Grimwald, and to bring names and facts into accord by proclaiming
himself King of the Franks. But in taking this step it behoved him
to be sure of two things, the consent of the nation and the sanction
of the Church. By the advice and with the consent of all the Franks,
expressed no doubt by some assembly of the chief men of the nation,
two great ecclesiastics, Fulrad, Abbot of St. Denis representing
Neustria, and Burchard, Bishop of Würzburg representing Austrasia, were
sent to Rome to ask the opinion of the pope on the great problem. It
will be well to state their commission in the words of a contemporary

“In the year 750 [it should be 751] from the incarnation of our
Lord, Pippin sends ambassadors to Rome to Zacharias the Pope to ask
concerning the Kings of the Franks who were of the royal race and were
called kings, but had no power in the kingdom except only that grants
and charters were drawn up in their names, but they had absolutely no
royal power; but what the _major domus_ of the Franks willed, that
they did. But on the [first] day of March in the _Campus_ [_Martis_]
according to ancient custom gifts were offered to those kings by the
people, and the king himself sat on the royal throne with the army
standing round him and the _major domus_ close by, and on that day
he gave forth as his orders whatever had been decreed by the Franks,
but on every other day thenceforward he sat quietly at home. Pope
Zacharias thereupon answered their question according to his apostolic
authority, that it seemed better and more expedient to him that _he_
should be called and be king who had power in the kingdom rather than
he who was falsely called king. Therefore the aforesaid pope commanded
the king and people of the Franks that Pippin who exercised the royal
power should be called king and be placed on the royal seat; which was
accordingly done by the anointing of the holy archbishop Boniface in
the city of Soissons. Pippin is called king, and Childeric who falsely
bore that title receives the tonsure and is sent into a monastery.”

So at length was the great change accomplished towards which Frankish
history had been tending for more than a century. What happened
was undoubtedly a revolution, though of a peaceful kind. The papal
sanction, the archiepiscopal unction might impress the minds of the
multitude; this new Christian consecration might partly compensate
for the missing glamour of a descent from gods and heroes which had
surrounded the dynasty of the Merovings; but in strict right, of
course, the Bishop of Rome had no title to command the change, no power
to absolve the Salian and Ripuarian Franks from their plighted faith
to the descendants of Clovis. It was well thought of to put the scene
of the consecration of the new dynasty at Soissons, that place so
memorable in the history of the older race. It was also important, if
the pope himself could not be induced to cross the Alps to perform the
ceremony of anointing, to have it performed by Boniface the Apostle of
the Germans, and the most conspicuous ecclesiastical figure in Europe.

We may pause for a moment to notice the remarkable share taken by
this man and others of our fellow countrymen in bringing about the
conversion of large portions of the German nation to Christianity,
and indirectly in founding the Teutonic “Holy Roman Empire” of the
Middle Ages. Scarcely had the Anglo-Saxon peoples been won over to the
Christian Church, when they began with missionary zeal to preach the
faith among their still heathen kinsmen on the Continent. The mission
of St. Augustine[23] to Britain took place in the year 596. In 634 was
born the Northumbrian Wilfrid, and in 658 his countryman Willibrord,
both of whom labored with zeal and success for the conversion of the
heathens of Friesland. A generation later the young Devonian Winifried,
born at Crediton, appeared on the banks of the Lower Rhine, to profit
by the experience of the aged Willibrord and to catch his falling
mantle. Three times he visited Rome to confer with those great popes,
the second and the third Gregory, and to receive their orders for the
conversion of fresh tribes in Germany, or for the consolidation of
spiritual conquests already achieved. On one of these visits, probably,
he received that name of Boniface by which he is best known in history,
together with a sort of roving commission as archbishop, and authority
to act as legate in the churches of Germany. Armed with this power
he set up bishoprics in Bavaria, revived the dying Christianity of
Thuringia, and chastised heretics in Gaul. Wherever the armies of
Charles Martel marched, in Friesland, in Saxony, in Hesse, Archbishop
Boniface followed, smashing idols, felling sacred oaks, and baptizing
half-unwilling converts. Towards the end of his life his roving
commission was changed into the more stationary office of Archbishop
of Mainz, and he sometimes retired for repose to the great monastery
of Fulda, which he had founded in the Hessian land near the source of
the Weser. But the old warhorse was still stirred by the sound of the
trumpet. Three years after his consecration of Pippin, Boniface went
forth on a last expedition for the conversion of the Frisians. When he
reached Dockum (in the north of the present province of Friesland) he
found there, instead of the expected catechumens, a multitude of the
heathen, zealous for the honor of their idols which Boniface had so
often destroyed, and eager for the spoil of the ecclesiastical invader.
From their hands he received the crown of martyrdom for which he longed.

The career of Boniface is of especial importance because of his
absolute devotion to the see of Rome. It was observed that the recently
converted nations, as is so often the case with new converts, surpassed
their older brethren in the fervor of their faith. While the bishops
of Gaul were lukewarm, sometimes almost insubordinate, the Anglo-Saxon
bishops were the devoted adherents of the papacy. Boniface especially
professed the most unbounded reverence for the chair of St. Peter, and
took with alacrity an oath of implicit obedience, substantially the
same which was exacted from the “suburbicarian” bishops of the sees in
the immediate neighborhood of Rome. This was the spirit in which the
infant churches were trained, and this no doubt was the tenor of the
advice which the zealous Archbishop of Mainz gave to the new King of
the Franks on the day of his coronation.

A traveller through the pleasant valleys of Devonshire when he comes
to the little town, scarcely more than a village, of Crediton between
its two overhanging hills, may reflect with interest that he beholds
the birthplace of the man who, more than any other, brought about the
entrance of the German nation into the family of Christian Europe.[24]

The coronation of Pippin took place probably about November 751. In
four months from that time Pope Zacharias died, doubtless without any
presentiment of the abiding importance of the event in which by his
answer to the Frankish messengers he had borne a part, but which is not
even mentioned by his biographer in the _Liber Pontificalis_. After a
short interval, an ecclesiastic of Roman parentage, who figures in the
annals of the papacy as Stephen II., was raised to the papal see. His
pontificate was short; it lasted but five years, but they were years
full of import for the destinies of Europe.

In order to concentrate our attention on the transformation of the
Arnulfing mayors of the palace into Frankish kings, I have hitherto
said as little as possible about the affairs of Italy, but this silence
can be kept no longer, now that a Roman pope is about to cross the Alps
and ask for Frankish aid to enable him to smite down his foes.

The Lombards had invaded Italy in the year 568, and for nearly two
centuries from that time there had been waged a kind of triangular
contest which, to compare great things with small, was like the
litigation which might go on in an English parish between an absentee
landlord, a big Nonconformist farmer, and a cultured but acquisitive

The Emperor was the great absentee. Though still always spoken of as
Emperor of Rome, he had been in fact for some centuries an absolutely
Oriental Sovereign. Since the deposition of Romulus Augustulus in
476, no Roman Emperor had touched the soil of Italy save for one brief
and most unwelcome visit paid by Constance II. in 663. The Imperial
dominion in the peninsula was by this time limited to the Venetian
islands, two provinces on the Adriatic coast called the Exarchate
of Ravenna and the Pentapolis, the city of Hydruntum (Otranto), the
province of Bruttii at the very end of the peninsula, Paestum, Naples
and the duchy of Rome, which included the city of Rome, the present
province of Latium and a little bit of Etruria. This scattered and
fragmentary dominion, which as will be seen was almost entirely
confined to the sea-coast, and embraced only a part of that, was ruled
by an imperial lieutenant who bore the title of Exarch, and whose seat
of government was the strong, almost impregnable, city of Ravenna.

Far the largest part of Italy, including all the fertile valley of the
Po, all the central chain of the Apennines and the valleys leading
from them, the greater part of Tuscany and almost the whole of Apulia,
was in the possession of the rough and masterful Lombards, who had
been fierce savages when they entered Italy, but who had lost most of
their savagery and some of their warlike vigor by long residence in the
delightful land and by contact with the vestiges of Roman civilization.
Arians for the most part, and even with some heathens among them at
the time of their first invasion, they had now embraced the Catholic
faith, were generous benefactors of the Church, and desired to be
considered her dutiful sons. But still the remembrance of their old
heresies continued, and whenever the political interests of the King
of the Lombards clashed with those of the Pope of Rome--and they did
clash as often and as irreconcilably as do those of pope and king
at the present day--the old epithets “unspeakable,” “sacrilegious,”
“diabolical,” flowed from the pens of the scribes in the papal chancery
as freely as they had flowed when the Lombards were yet idolaters.

As for the pope, how to describe in few words his anomalous and
fast-changing position? Undoubted Patriarch of the Western Church, he
nevertheless had many a struggle with the Patriarch of Constantinople
as to his claim to rule the Church Universal. The missionaries whom
he had sent forth to convert the Teutonic tribes of England and
Germany were, as has been said, zealous asserters of his spiritual
pre-eminence, and, like the Jesuits of the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries, the great champions of the rights of Rome. Herein also they
were vigorously supported by the monks who had spread widely over all
Christian lands, and who at this time were almost without exception
followers of the rule of the Italian saint, Benedict. Some of the
bishops, however, especially some of the Gaulish bishops, were, as has
been said, by no means equally prompt in their obedience to the papal
see. The pope’s relation to the distant emperor at Constantinople
during these centuries of transition is one of the hardest things to
describe with accuracy. A subject, and yet in a certain sense a rival,
often severely snubbed by the emperor’s representative at Rome, almost
adored on one or two occasions when he set foot in Constantinople;
elected by the clergy and people of Old Rome, yet for many generations
not venturing to assume the title of pope till he received the imperial
confirmation from New Rome; a mere ecclesiastic without as yet any
pretension to temporal sovereignty, and yet under the stress of
circumstances ordering campaigns against the Lombards, installing dukes
and displacing tribunes--such in the time of Gregory the Great[25] and
for more than a century afterwards had been the anomalous relation of
the _beatissimus Papa_ or _sanctissimus Pontifex_, to his _serenissimus
Dominus, Christianissimus principum_, the man who at Constantinople
wore the diadem of Diocletian.[26] The relation was strained and
difficult, and one would have said that it could not long endure; and
yet (as anomalies, especially in the relations of Church and State, are
apt to do), it lasted long, for at least six generations of mankind.
During this time the popes had certainly often to complain of harsh
and overbearing treatment on the part of their imperial masters. One
pope was dragged from the altar to a dungeon; another was banished to
the Crimea, and died in that remote place of exile; the life of another
was conspired against by murderers in the pay of the emperor’s Italian
representative, and these were only the more striking passages in a
long history of estrangement and mutual suspicion. Through all, the
hold of the pope on the affections of the Roman people was steadily
increasing, since he was looked upon as the representative of Roman
nationality and Roman orthodoxy against the often schismatical Greek
and the always domineering Lombard.

Of late--that is to say, during the greater part of the mayoralty
of Charles Martel--the antagonism between pope and emperor had been
increased by the dispute about the worship of images. In 726 Leo
III. the great Isaurian emperor who had successfully repelled the
Saracens from the walls of Constantinople, put forth his edicts for the
destruction of the sacred images throughout the empire. These decrees,
which roused some of the Greeks to actual insurrection, were met by
sullen disobedience on the part of the Italians. The authority of the
Exarch of Ravenna was set at naught; the local government was vested
in dukes chosen by the enraged image-worshippers; it seemed as though
the empire would utterly lose even the vestiges of its dominion in
Italy. But at this crisis the pope (Gregory II.), though he had been
in strong opposition to the emperor, and had sharply denounced his
iconoclastic edicts, restrained the Italians from actual revolt and
from the election of a counter-emperor, “hoping for the conversion of
the sovereign.” It is difficult to say how the matter ended. Apparently
the decrees were not enforced in Italy, nor did the movement of
insurrection gather head. The exarch still ruled in Ravenna; the pope
still considered himself the subject of the eastern emperor; but there
was no cordiality between them, and more and more the popes looked
across the Alps to the new Austrasian potentate, rather than to the old
Augustus by the Bosphorus, for defence, patronage, and endowment.

The question of the pope’s position is somewhat complicated by the fact
that he was probably the largest landowner in Italy. The “Patrimony of
St. Peter,” as it was called, comprised great estates in the Campagna,
in Samnium, on the Adriatic coast, besides a considerable portion of
Sicily. Any estimate of their extent and value can be only guess-work,
but it is conjectured that in the time of Gregory the Great they
would, if all massed together, have formed a district as large as
Lancashire,[27] and that the yearly revenue derived from them amounted
to £420,000. It is to be observed that we are here dealing not with
sovereignty but with ownership, and that the wide domains thus actually
owned by the Bishop of Rome had probably been increased rather than
diminished in the century and a half that had elapsed since the death
of Gregory.

As to the purposes to which this vast wealth was applied, even a severe
critic of the mediæval papacy must admit that they were, in the main,
right and noble ones. We have no hint now of that nepotism which was
the disgrace of the Roman see in much later ages. None of these early
popes, as far as we know, ever “founded a family.” The maintenance of
the large and brilliant papal household was doubtless a first charge
on the revenues of the see. The costly and somewhat ostentatious gifts
of plate to St. Peter’s Church, which are punctually recorded in the
_Liber Pontificalis_, were perhaps a second charge upon them. But after
all, a large proportion of these revenues must have gone towards the
relief of poverty, sickness, and distress. The pope was now what the
emperor had once been, the great relieving officer of Rome; not only in
the Eternal City, but all over Italy, at any rate while such a pope as
the first Gregory sat in St. Peter’s chair, whenever a bishop brought a
case of distress under his notice there was a strong probability that
he would receive a grant in aid from the papal revenues.

It is needless to point out what enormous power the ownership of such
vast estates and the distribution of such princely revenues must have
placed in the hands of the elderly ecclesiastic who was acclaimed
as pope by the assembled multitude in the basilica of St. Peter. In
the year 751 he was not yet a sovereign, but he was that kind of
territorial magnate out of whom a sovereign might easily be made.

The curious and difficult relation which had subsisted for so long
between the three great powers in Italy was ended in 751, the year of
Pippin’s coronation, when Aistulf, King of the Lombards, captured the
city of Ravenna and terminated the exarch’s rule in Italy. Believing
evidently that the time had come for the long postponed consolidation
of Italy under the Lombard rule, he drew nigh to the city of Rome, and
in some way or other threatened its independence. What he actually did
it is difficult to discover from the verbose and passionate declamation
of the papal biographer, but it seems clear that his soldiers committed
some depredations on the “Patrimony of St. Peter,” and it is probable
that without laying formal siege to the city he threatened it with
war unless the citizens would consent to pay him a poll-tax in
acknowledgment of his sovereignty over them.

These depredations, or these schemes of conquest, were not needed
to arouse the fierce and passionate hostility of the pope to the
all-absorbing Lombard. So long as there had been three great powers in
Italy there had been an equilibrium of a certain kind between them.
In fact, the pope had more than once invoked the help of the Lombard,
“unspeakable” as he called him, against his “most Christian” sovereign
in Constantinople, when the latter pressed him too hard. But now the
pope and the Lombard king stood face to face with no other rival to
their greatness, and each of them probably felt, dimly but certainly,
that it would be a duel to the death between them.

It was probably in the year 752, some months after the conquest of
Ravenna, and when the hostile intentions of King Aistulf against Rome
had been sufficiently indicated, that Pope Stephen II. sent a secret
message by a pilgrim who had visited Rome, imploring the King of the
Franks to give him a formal invitation to his court. In the spring of
753 the envoys of Pippin brought the desired invitation, and a letter,
in which there was probably some promise of protection against the
Lombards. Just about the same time a messenger, the _silentiarius_[28]
John, arrived from the Emperor Constantine V., desiring the pope to
repair to the court of Pavia and solicit King Aistulf to grant the
restoration of Ravenna to the empire. The pope had sent more than one
urgent message to the emperor imploring his protection, and this futile
commission was the only reply. The form of the despatch showed that
the emperor still regarded the pope as his subject, but its substance
was certainly some justification to Stephen for that transfer of his
allegiance from Constantine to Pippin, which had now begun to present
itself to his mind as a possible way of escape from his difficulties.
In itself the Imperial Commission was not unwelcome, since it
necessitated a safe conduct from Aistulf for the journey to Pavia.

On the 13th of October, 753, Pope Stephen set forth from Rome. Many
of the Romans followed him out of the gates, weeping and wailing, and
striving in vain to prevent him from undertaking the journey. But,
though weak in body, he had a stout heart, and was not to be turned
from his purpose. When he reached Pavia he was met by the envoys of
Aistulf, who brought him the king’s command not to mention the word
restitution in connection with Ravenna or the exarchate. He answered
boldly that no intimidation should procure his silence on that subject.
When admitted to the royal presence he exhibited the gifts which he had
brought for the king, and, with many tears, implored him to restore the
captured cities to the empire. The request was utterly vain; probably
even the imperial _silentiarius_, who was standing by, hardly expected
that it would be anything else. But then came another request of much
more serious import. Bishop Chrodegang and Duke Autchar, the high-born
and powerful representatives of the King of the Franks, asked, in
no obsequious tones, that the pope should be allowed to visit their
master. The pope was summoned to the royal presence, and questioned
as to his desire to cross the Alps. Several of the officers of the
court had been sent to Stephen to warn him that he would incur the
severe displeasure of the king if he persisted in his project; but when
questioned by Aistulf himself, he boldly answered, “If it be your will
to relax my bonds, it is altogether my will to undertake the journey.”
King Aistulf, we are told, “gnashed his teeth like a lion.” He knew
too well what danger this journey foreboded to himself and the whole
Lombard state, but the request, so made and so supported, was one that
he dared not refuse, and he most reluctantly gave his consent. On the
15th of November the pope started from Pavia, and travelled rapidly
lest Aistulf should after all seek to detain him. When he reached Aosta
he was already in Frankish territory, though on the Italian side of
the Alps. The danger which after that point terrified the pope and his
long train of trembling ecclesiastics were only the dangers of nature’s
contriving, the steep cliffs and impending avalanches of the Great St.
Bernard; henceforth they were safe from the fear of man. Having arrived
at the great monastery of St. Maurice, in the valley of the Rhone, the
pope and his followers rested there certain days. That had been the
appointed place of meeting with the Frankish king, but apparently the
impetuous old pope had reached it before he was expected.

“But the king,” says the papal biographer, “hearing of the pope’s
arrival, went with great speed to meet him, together with his wife,
his sons, and his chief nobles. For which purpose also he directed his
son, named Carolus, to meet that quasi-angelic pope, together with some
of his nobles. Then he himself, starting from his palace at Ponticum
[Ponthieu], dismounted from his horse, and going three miles to meet
him, with great humility prostrated himself before him on the ground,
and so, together with his wife, sons, and nobles, received that most
holy pope, to whom also he served the office of a groom, running for
some distance by his stirrup. Then the aforesaid health-bringing man,
with all his train, in a loud voice giving glory and ceaseless praises
to Almighty God, marched to the palace, together with the king, with
hymns and spiritual songs. This befell on the 6th day of January (754),
on the most holy festival of the Epiphany.”

This journey of the pope across the Alps is not only the first of a
long and fateful series, but affords us our first glance at that young
lad who was then only “the king’s son Carolus,” but who was one day
to deal with popes on his own account, and was to be known, the world
over, as _Carolus Magnus_. The date, as well as the place of his birth,
is uncertain, but it is probable that he was born in 742, the year
after his father’s accession to the mayoralty, and was therefore under
twelve years of age when he was sent by his father to accompany Pope
Stephen II. on his journey of not less than 200 miles from St. Maurice
in Switzerland, to Ponthieu in Champagne.

At the entry of the pope, the Frankish king had humbled himself before
him. On the next day the parts were reversed. “The pope appeared,
together with his clerical companions, in the presence of Pippin.
Clothed in sackcloth, and with ashes on his head, he cast himself on
the ground, and besought the king, by the mercies of Almighty God, and
by the merits of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, that he would
free himself and the Roman people from the hand of the Lombards, and
from slavery to the proud king Aistulf; nor would he arise until King
Pippin, together with his sons and the nobles of the Franks, stretched
forth their hands and lifted him from the ground as a sign of their
future support and a pledge of his liberation.”

There are some indications that the nobles and warriors of the
Frankish Court were averse to undertaking the risks and hardships of a
Transalpine campaign, and it was probably for the sake of winning their
concurrence that this scene was enacted. The king, though not perhaps
very eager in the cause, was sufficiently bound to the pope by the
memory of past favors, and the hope of favors to come, in the shape of
papal blessings on his newly-assumed royalty.

The winter months of 754 were passed in embassies between the
two kings. Pippin called upon Aistulf to cease from his impious
presumption, and to leave unmolested the city of St. Peter and St.
Paul. His ambassadors brought back naught but words of pride and
obstinacy from the Lombard. War was resolved on, but before it began,
Pippin, mindful of the chances of war, and determined to secure the
succession in his family, resolved to have another confirmation of his
doubtful title from the hands of his venerable guest. Pope Stephen, who
had passed the winter at the wealthy convent of St. Denis, “anointed
the most pious Prince Pippin King of the Franks and Patrician of the
Romans with the oil of holy anointing, according to the custom of the
ancients, and at the same time crowned his two sons, who stood next
him, in happy succession, namely, Charles and Carloman, with the same

This passage is an important one, and we must pause upon it for a few

First, as to the rite of anointing. The writers who have most carefully
inquired into the matter, are clear that this rite, though it had been
practised upon the later Visigothic kings of Spain, and upon some of
the British kings in Wales, was new to the Frankish monarchy, when
performed first by Boniface and then by Stephen on the head of Pippin.
It really rested upon Old Testament precedents, such as the anointings
of Saul and of David: and it was possibly intended, as already hinted,
to replace in some degree the religious sanction which in old heathen
days royal families, such as the Merovingians, had possessed in their
fabled descent from gods and demi-gods.

Secondly: as to the bestowal on Pippin of the title “Patrician of the
Romans.” Long ago, before the series of Western emperors came to an
end, the word patrician had ceased to denote an aristocratic class, and
had been used of a single powerful individual, otherwise called “the
Father of the Emperor,” who in fact bore to the sovereign a relation
not unlike that which the Frankish mayor of the palace bore to the
Merovingian king. Thus, in the fifth century, Aetius and Ricimer had
successively borne the dignity of patrician, and in the sixth, the
Ostrogothic king Theodoric, speaking by the mouth of his minister
Cassiodorus, had said, “The great distinction of the patriciate is
that it is a rank held for life, like that of the priesthood from
which it sprang. The patrician takes precedence of all other dignities
save one, the consulship, and that is one which we ourselves sometimes
assume.” Since then, the imperial lieutenant in Italy had apparently
always assumed the title of patrician at Rome, in addition to that of
exarch by which he was best known at Ravenna. Now that the exarchs
were gone, the sonorous and imposing title might perhaps be said to be
nobody’s property. If any one had a right to bestow it the emperor at
Constantinople was the man: but he was far off and unpopular. There
was an obvious temptation to the Bishop of Rome to pick the shining
bauble out of the dust and present it to his powerful friend on the
other side of the Alps. It is not likely that it included any definite
functions of government, but it probably carried with it, in a somewhat
ill-defined and shadowy form, the right and the duty of defending from
external attacks the people and city of Rome.

Thirdly: the pope included in his coronation-service the two boyish
sons of Pippin, Charles and Carloman, and at the same time (if we may
trust a curious memorandum, the _Clausula de Pippino_, which professes
to have been written in 767 and which is now generally considered
authentic) the pope “blessed the Queen Bertrada and the nobles of the
Frankish nation, and while confirming them in the grace of the Holy
Spirit, he bound them under penalty of interdict and excommunication
never to presume to elect a king who should come forth from the loins
of any other than these persons whom Divine Providence had raised to
the throne, and who through the intercession of the holy Apostles had
been consecrated and confirmed by the hands of their vicar, the pope.”
Even so: that which had been done in the case of the last Merovingian
was never to be repeated in the case of any Arnulfing however
inefficient. The ruler who four years ago was only king _de facto_ must
now claim to the uttermost all the rights of a king _de jure_ descended
from a long line of regal ancestors.

This solemn coronation of Pippin took place, we are told, on the 28th
of July, 754. We naturally ask what had so long delayed the intended
expedition into Italy. There had been a dangerous illness of the pope,
the result of the hardships of his journey and of the unaccustomed
rigors of a Gaulish winter. There had also been more embassies:
apparently Pippin would exhaust all the resources of negotiation
before he proceeded to war. And lastly there had appeared at the royal
villa of Carisiacum an unexpected advocate to plead for the Lombard
king. This was none other than Pippin’s brother Carloman, lately ruler
of Austrasia, and the senior partner in the semi-royal firm, now a
tonsured monk, humbly though earnestly advocating the cause of peace.
The papal biographer sees in him only a dupe tempted forth from his
monastery by the “devilish persuasions of the unspeakable tyrant,
Aistulf,” and “striving vehemently with all his might to subvert
the cause of God’s Holy Church.” Certainly this intervention of the
newly-made monk against the great Head and Patron of all monks, is
one of the strangest incidents in his strange career: but it may be
permitted us to conjecture that during his seven years’ residence in
Italy he had acquired somewhat of an Italian heart and had learnt to
dread the ravages of

                “the arméd torrent poured
    Down the steep Alps.”

Possibly too in the silence of his convent he had learned to estimate
at their true value the papal claims to wealth and wide dominion, and
with prophetic soul foresaw that the armed interference of the Franks
in the quarrels of pope and Lombard king would in the end bring good
neither to the Church nor to his father’s house.

But whatever Carloman’s motives might be, his interposition on behalf
of Aistulf was firmly, perhaps ungraciously, repelled. He was not
allowed to return to Italy, but was confined in a monastery in France,
“where after certain days,” says the biographer, “at the call of God he
migrated from the light of day.” He died on the 17th of August, 754.
There is no suggestion of foul play, and indeed Pippin’s character,
as far as we know it, is too noble to warrant any such suggestion. It
seems probable that Carloman died broken-hearted at the discovery that
he had renounced the honest worldliness of the palace for the baser and
more hypocritical worldliness of the cloister and the cathedral.

After this episode of the intervention of Carloman, his sons were shorn
and sent to a convent. Grifo also, as we have seen, perished a little
before this time. There now remained only Pippin and his sons visibly
before the world as representatives of the great Arnulfing House.

At last all negotiations were ended, and in the late summer Pippin
with his whole army marched against Aistulf. He had reached S. Jean
de Maurienne: the pass of Mont Cenis rose before him, by which he
must make his way into Italy. He was still, however, on Frankish
ground, for, as the result of the wars between Lombards and Franks two
centuries previously, both Mont Cenis and (as has been already said)
the Great St. Bernard with their adjacent towns of Susa and Aosta
formed part of the Frankish kingdom. The Lombard king had come as far
as Susa and had there accumulated great store of warlike machines, “for
the nefarious defence of his kingdom against the republic and the Roman
Apostolic see.” He had, however, neglected the obvious precaution of
sending soldiers forward to secure the heights and harass the Frankish
army in their passage over the mountain. Thus it came to pass that
a small but brave body of men, the advance-guard of Pippin’s army,
emerged unhindered into the valley of Susa. Thinking to win an easy
victory Aistulf launched the Lombard host upon them. But the Franks,
strong in their pious faith in God and St. Peter, and fighting also in
a narrow valley, where the superior numbers of the enemy gave them no
advantage, bravely repelled the Lombard onset. After Aistulf had seen
many of his dukes and counts fall around him he turned to flee, and
halted not till with few followers he had reached his capital of Pavia.
Now was the path clear before the Frankish king, who without difficulty
crossed the mountains, sacked the rich Lombard camp, laid waste the
valley of the Po with fire and sword, and appeared with all his host
under the walls of Pavia. After some days Aistulf sounded the trumpet
for parley, and sought terms of peace. This was granted to him on
condition of his paying 30,000 soldi (£18,000) to Pippin and promising
to restore to the papacy all the estates which he had torn from the
papal patrimony and to live henceforth at peace with the successor
of St. Peter, who had by this time returned to Rome. Possibly there
was also included in the terms of this peace the far more important
condition that he should surrender to the pope the Pentapolis and the
cities of Ceccano and Narni in the neighborhood of Rome, as well as pay
a yearly tribute of 5,000 soldi (£3000) to the Frankish king.

Though hostages had been given and solemn oaths sworn for the
performance of these conditions, the Lombard king did not keep, perhaps
had never intended to keep them. Narni indeed was handed over to the
pope, but apparently none of the other cities or lands which Aistulf
had promised to restore; and on New Year’s day, 756, he appeared with
a large army before the gates of Rome. The men of Tuscany blockaded
the gate of St. Peter’s; the Beneventans, the gates of St. Paul and
St. John Lateran; while Aistulf himself, like another Alaric, appeared
before the Salarian gate and called upon the citizens as they valued
their lives, to open the gate and hand over the pontiff to his tender
mercies. For nearly two months had the siege lasted when Stephen II.
contrived, through the agency of the abbot Warnehar, to make audible
to Pippin his piteous cries for help. In the last and most urgent of
these letters the pope associates St. Peter with himself, represents
the Apostle as praying Pippin to hasten his aid, “lest you should allow
this city of Rome to perish in which the Lord has appointed that my
body should rest, and which He has commended to my protection and made
the foundation of the faith.” This letter is certainly a very daring
rhetorical artifice, but it is probable that it was understood to be
that and nothing more, both by the sender and the receiver.

This time the Frankish king required but little persuasion. The
flagrant breach of the treaty made with himself, as well as with the
pope, was an insult which called for vengeance. In the spring of 756
he put his army in motion, and after a rapid march by way of Chalons
and Geneva he was once more under the snows of Mont Cenis. The Lombard
soldiers again failed to prevent his passage over the crest of the
pass, and when he had descended into the higher valleys where they
were stationed, the Franks, who had evidently among them many trained
mountaineers (no doubt from the regions now known as Dauphiné, Savoy,
and Switzerland) turned the position of the Lombards by mountain tracks
which they had left unguarded, and descending upon them with that
_furia Francese_ of which in a later day Italy was to have so many and
such fatal examples, slew a multitude of the enemy and put the rest
to flight. Again was all the upper valley of the Po devastated by the
Frankish troops, and again did Pippin pitch his tents on either side
of the Ticino under the walls of Pavia. At the sight thereof, Aistulf,
abandoning all hope of successful resistance, obtained the mediation of
the nobles and bishops in the invading army, and, imploring pardon for
his broken promises, submitted to the conditions, hard as they were,
imposed by the conqueror. These were, the surrender to Pippin of one
third of the royal hoard stored up through many generations at Pavia,
the bestowal of large presents on the nobles of the Frankish court, the
payment of long arrears of tribute, and, now at length in very deed,
the cession of the cities of the exarchate[29] and the Pentapolis.[30]

But to whom were these cities, wrested as they had been by the Lombards
from the representative of the Eastern Emperor, to be ceded? That was
a question which, though it had probably been discussed and decided
by the Pope and the King of the Franks, had not received a definite
answer in the face of Europe till this summer of 756. It happened that
at the very time when Pippin was opening his campaign, there arrived
in Rome, George and John, Chief Secretary and Captain of the Guard,
from the Emperor Constantine V. on a mission to the Frankish king.
Journeying by sea to Marseilles, and then crossing the Alps, the
Secretary found Pippin under the walls of Pavia, and entreated him with
much earnestness and with the promise of many gifts from the emperor,
to hand over the city of Ravenna and the other cities of the exarchate
to the imperial rule. “But not thus,” says the papal biographer, “did
he avail to bend the strong will of that most Christian and most benign
man, so loyal to God and such a lover of St. Peter, King Pippin, to
hand over those cities to the imperial dominion; for that devout and
most mild-mannered king declared that never should those cities be
alienated from the power of St. Peter, and the rights of the Roman
Church and the pontiff of the Apostolic see: affirming with an oath
that not to win the favor of any mortal man had he twice addressed
himself to the fight, but solely for love of St. Peter and for the
pardon of his sins: and vowing too that no amount of money should
induce him to take away what he had once given to St. Peter. With this
answer he gave the imperial messenger leave to return to his country by
another way, and he having failed in his commission returned to Rome.”

This is apparently the critical point from which we must date the
pope’s independence of the Eastern, or as we ought still to call
him, the Roman Emperor. Up to this time, whatever divergencies there
may have been in doctrine or in policy, the Bishop of Rome has always
been in theory the subject of the Emperor of Rome. Now he distinctly
asserts, by the mouth of his powerful friend from over the Alps, that
certain broad domains which have been conquered from the empire, shall
be handed over not to the emperor but to himself. He shakes himself
loose from his old subjection and becomes by the same act a sovereign
prince, not only--and this is an important point--in the newly-acquired
territory of the exarchate, but also in his old home of the _Ducatus

The cities now handed over to the see of Rome were twenty-two in
number, and stretched along the Adriatic coast from the mouths of the
Po to within a few miles of Ancona and inland as far as the Apennines.
The plenipotentiary of the Frankish king, Fulrad, Abbot of St. Denis,
travelled through the Pentapolis, and the exarchate, together with
Aistulf’s commissioner, entered each city, received its keys and was
introduced to the chief magistrates, who journeyed onward in his
train. All these arrived at Rome. The local magistrates were doubtless
presented to their new sovereign. The keys of Ravenna and all the other
cities were laid on St. Peter’s tomb along with the donation by which
King Pippin granted them for ever to St. Peter and the pope. This done
Abbot Fulrad returned to Paris having accomplished his world-historical
mission. Stephen II., 94th Bishop of Rome, was now in fact not only
pope but king, and a beginning was made of those “States of the Church”
which with one brief interval have down to our own day intersected the
map of Italy.

I have dwelt at considerable length on Pippin’s relations with the
papacy, because they are inseparably connected with the most important
event in the history of his son. His other achievements, though
remarkable, and though they were evidently much nearer to his heart
(for his intervention in Italian affairs was done grudgingly and almost
against his will), must be dismissed in a few words.

In the first place, in the year 759 a Frankish army besieged Narbonne.
A solemn oath was sworn to the Goths, that if they would surrender the
city to Pippin they should be allowed to keep their own separate laws,
and on this the Goths rose, slew the Saracens who held the city for the
Caliph of Cordova, and handed it over to the Frankish generals. With
this capture ended the Moslem domination in Southern Gaul, though it
was not the last time that the turbans of the Moors were to be seen
north of the Pyrenees.

The conditions upon which the Christian inhabitants of Narbonne
consented to help the Frankish host against the Saracens, show how
strong was still the spirit of separate Gothic nationality in that part
of Gaul. Something of the same spirit, blended with other elements,
tended to make all that great region south and west of the Loire,
which went by the name of Aquitaine, seek for independence from the
Franks whom she still looked upon as strangers and foreigners. We have
seen how this spirit of independence was working when Eudo was Duke
of Aquitaine and Charles Martel _major domus_ of Francia, and how it
was only the pressure of a terrible danger which caused Eudo to seek
the help of Charles before the battle of Poitiers. Eudo was succeeded
(735) by his son Hunold, who seven years after, on the death of Charles
Martel, strove to throw off the Frankish yoke, but soon found that what
the father had won his two sons were well able to maintain. In 744
Hunold, by false oaths, enticed into his power his brother Hatto, who
apparently aspired to share his dominion, put out his eyes and thrust
him into prison. Then, apparently in penitence for this crime, he, like
Carloman, retired into a monastery and was succeeded in his duchy by
his son Waifar.

This Waifar, Duke of Aquitaine, is a man of whom we would gladly know
more, but of whose deeds no song or saga has preserved the memory. Only
a few dry sentences in chronicles, written by the flatterers of his
foe, tell us that for nine years (760–768) King Pippin carried on with
him a war which, beginning with complaints about the withholding of
the revenues of some Frankish churches, was more and more embittered
as time went on, and in the end became nothing less than a struggle
for the absolute subjugation of Aquitaine and the destruction of the
dynasty of Eudo. In 768 the Frankish king took the mother, sister,
and nieces of Waifar prisoners in the town of Saintes. Still the
chief fugitive escaped him. In the forests of Perigord, among the
mountain-caves of the Dordogne where, ages before, neolithic man had
graven the likeness of the reindeer and the bear,[31] the grandson of
Eudo made his ever-changing hiding-places. At length the warriors of
Pippin dividing themselves into four bands ran him to earth somewhere
in Saintonge. He was at once put to death, and the dream of an
independent Aquitaine vanished.

While Pippin was laboring over the work, so necessary from his point of
view, of the subjugation of Aquitaine, Bavaria, which held a somewhat
similar position of semi-independence on the south-east of the kingdom,
was escaping from his grasp. The work of the reconquest of this great
duchy had to be left to his sons, and I must postpone to a future
chapter the story of the changing fortunes of Tassilo, Duke of Bavaria.

It was while tarrying at Saintes and celebrating his triumph over
Waifar that Pippin was attacked by his last and fatal sickness. In
vain did he visit the shrines of St. Martin at Tours and St. Denis
at Paris. The hand of death was upon him, and having convoked all
the nobles, dukes, and counts of the Franks, and all the bishops and
chief ecclesiastics of the kingdom to an assembly at Paris, he there
solemnly, “with the consent of his chiefs,” divided his dominions
between his two sons, Charles and Carloman. He then after a few days
died (24th September, 768) and was buried at St. Denis with great pomp.
He had governed the people of the Franks either as _major domus_ or as
king for twenty-six years, and he had probably reached about the 54th
year of his age. The princes of the Arnulfing line, though not like the
debauched and short-lived Merovings, seldom saw the end of their sixth
decade of life.

What Pippin did for the foundation of the monarchy which was to be
the basis of the new settlement of Europe, was in its way quite as
important and even more enduring than that which was done by his more
illustrious son, upon whose reign we now enter.





The situation of affairs after the death of Pippin seems at first
sight almost the exact counterpart of that which existed at the death
of Charles Martel. We have again two brothers ruling, one of them
a Carloman, and the Frankish dominions are divided between them.
There are however some important differences. In the first place the
two young princes are now not mere _majores domus_ but acknowledged
kings. Moreover, the division of the Frankish territories between the
brothers proceeds on a different principle from that adopted in 741.
The dividing line then ran north and south: now it is more nearly east
and west. Thus Charles, the elder son, again has Austrasia and the
North German lands dependent upon it, but probably also the larger
part of Neustria; while Burgundy, Provence, and Alamannia (Swabia) fall
to the lot of Carloman. Aquitaine, which Pippin looked upon as his own
conquest, was probably included in Charles’s portion. But the general
tendency of this division, even more perhaps than of the division of
741, must have been to give the lands where the memories of Roman
civilization were strong and where the Latin tongue was used, to the
younger brother, and all the specially Teutonic, Frankish lands, the
cradle of the Arnulfing race, to the elder.

Another, and what might have been a more important difference between
the two partitions, lay in the relation between the brothers. So long
as the partnership lasted between the elder Carloman and Pippin they
appear to have lived in mutual loyalty and love; but the relation
between Charles and the younger Carloman was one of scarcely veiled
enmity. Their mother, the good and clever queen Bertrada, did her best
to keep the peace between them, but some of Carloman’s friends fanned
the flame of discord. Dislike might have broken out into actual civil
war but for the opportune death of Carloman, which occurred on the
4th of December 771, after a little more than three years of joint
sovereignty. This Carloman is a much less strongly marked figure than
his uncle and namesake, and in fact, the quarrel with his far more
famous brother, and his marriage to a noble Frankish maiden named
Gerberga, are almost the only events in his life that history records.

On hearing the tidings of his brother’s death, Charles at once
proceeded to the villa of Corbonacus near Soissons which had probably
been Carloman’s chief residence, and there, with the consent of
Archbishop Wiltchar, of Fulrad, Abbot of St. Denis and royal chaplain,
and of some of the nobles of Carloman’s court, he was solemnly
proclaimed King of all the Franks. The claims of the two infant sons of
Carloman were thus set aside, it would seem, rather by the influence
of the great ecclesiastics of the realm than with the hearty consent
of the nobles, some of whom shared the exile of the widowed Gerberga,
who with her children crossed the Alps and sought shelter at the Court
of the King of the Lombards. We may probably discern in this action of
Wiltchar and Fulrad somewhat of the same statesmanlike spirit which
caused the great Anglo-Saxon churchmen to work for the consolidation
of the Heptarchy into one kingdom. None knew better than they the
evils which a long minority and protracted dissensions between north
and south would bring upon the kingdom, and for the safety of the
state they were perhaps justified in encouraging Charles to seize the
auspicious moment for reuniting the divided realm.

When Charles thus became sole ruler of the Frankish state he was
probably a little under thirty years of age. He was a man of commanding
presence, more than six feet high, with large and lustrous eyes, a
rather long nose, a bright and cheerful countenance and a fine head of
hair, which we may suppose to have been now yellow like that of his
Teutonic forefathers, though when his biographer Einhard knew him best
it had the beautiful whiteness of age.

Already in the three years of the joint kingship he had had some
experience of war. Though his father seemed to have thoroughly subdued
Aquitaine, the embers of disaffection were still smouldering there,
and on the appearance of a certain Hunold, probably of the family of
the well-remembered Eudo, they broke out into a flame (769). Charles,
having vainly called on his brother Carloman for aid, marched to
Angoulême, where he concentrated his forces. On his appearance the
insurrection collapsed and Hunold had a narrow escape of capture. By
his superior knowledge of the country he succeeded in baffling his
pursuers and made his way into Gascony. Lupus, duke of that region, was
minded to give him shelter, but on receiving a message from Charles
that if the fugitive were not surrendered he would march his army into
Gascony and not depart thence till he had thoroughly subdued it to his
obedience, the Gascon duke lost heart and surrendered Hunold and his
wife to their conqueror. We hear nothing more of their fate. Gascony,
unlike Aquitaine, kept its duke, and though it must have vaguely
recognized the over-lordship of Charles, it was probably the least
thoroughly subdued and assimilated of all the regions of that which we
now call France.

But meanwhile the whole current of events--marriages, deaths, worldly
ambition and ghostly counsel--was sweeping Charles onward to the great
exploit of his reign, the conquest of Italy. When we last glanced at
Italian affairs we saw Abbot Fulrad, together with the commissioner of
the Lombard king Aistulf, gathering up the keys of the cities of the
exarchate and bringing them to lay at the feet of Pope Stephen II.[32]
That important event, the beginning of the temporal dominion of the
pope, occurred in 756, twelve years before the accession of Charles.
In the interval many changes had occurred, and several new actors had
appeared upon the scene.

In the first place, only a month or two after he had performed the
long-delayed surrender of the exarchate, Aistulf died. His death was
due to an accident in the hunting-field, but as he had been so often
at war with the Church, of course the papal biographer sees in it “a
blow from the Divine hand.” Desiderius, Duke of Tuscany, now aimed at
the Lombard crown; but Ratchis, the long since dethroned king emerged
from his convent and succeeded in reigning once more for three months
as King of the Lombards. Desiderius, however, sought the intervention
of the pope--probably the return of the monk Ratchis to secular life
was disapproved of on religious grounds--and by the promise of adding
yet more cities to the new papal dominions succeeded in procuring
his powerful interference on his behalf. Abbot Fulrad, too, that
able _chargé d’affaires_ of the Frankish king, exerted himself on
the same side, probably threatening his master’s intervention. The
result of the negotiations was that the matter was settled, apparently
without bloodshed. Ratchis stepped back into his convent, Desiderius
surrendered the cities for which the pope had bargained, and became
King--as it proved the last native king--of the Lombards (March, 757).
In the following month Pope Stephen II. died, and was succeeded by his
brother Paul I. The ten years of this prelate’s pontificate seem to
have been a time of comparative peace between pope and Lombard king.
Then came a stormy interregnum, the invasion of the papal see by an
intrusive Tuscan nobleman, his expulsion after thirteen months, and
the elevation to the papal chair of the Sicilian, Stephen III. We need
not here enter into the history of these obscure revolutions in which
two parties, a Lombard and a Frankish, are dimly seen struggling for
the mastery. We note only that Stephen III.’s elevation (7th August,
768) happened but a few months before the death of Pippin. About two
years after, we find him addressing an extraordinary letter full of
passionate animosity against the Lombards, to the two young Frankish
kings. He has heard that Desiderius King of the Lombards is seeking to
persuade one or other of the royal brothers to dismiss his lawfully
wedded wife and marry a Lombard princess, his daughter. Perish the
thought! To say nothing of the impiety of putting away a wedded wife
to marry another woman, what folly, what madness it would be in the
kings of so noble and illustrious a nation as the Franks to pollute
themselves by marrying a woman of the stinking Lombard race, which is
not counted in the number of the nations, and from which it is certain
that the brood of lepers has sprung! “Remember and consider that ye
have been anointed with holy oil with celestial benediction by the
hands of the vicar of St. Peter, and take care that you do not become
entangled in such crimes. Remember, too, that you have promised the
blessed Peter, his vicar [Pope Stephen II.] and his successors that you
would be friends to his friends and enemies to his enemies, as we have
promised to you the like and do firmly continue therein. How, then,
can you escape the guilt of perjury if you ally yourselves with that
perjured nation of the Lombards, who, forever attacking the Church of
God and invading this our province of the Romans, are proved to be our
deadliest foes?”

This passionate, almost insolent letter of dissuasion was of no avail.
Carloman indeed kept his wedded wife Gerberga, but Charles, some time
in the year 770, put away his wife, a noble Frankish lady, named
Himiltruda, and married the daughter of Desiderius, whom his mother
Bertrada, a friend of the Lombard alliance, had brought back with her
from Italy after a pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles.

The tie of kinship between Frank and Lombard, thus formed, was soon and
rudely broken. After a year of wedlock the daughter of Desiderius was
back again in her father’s court a divorced and rejected wife (771).
What were the motives of her husband for such insulting treatment of
his young queen none of his contemporaries have told us. The monk of
St. Gall,[33] writing a century after the event, tells us that the
lady was a delicate invalid, unlikely ever to become a mother, and
that for this reason Charles, acting by the advice of his most saintly
bishops, put her away as if she were dead. It is a plausible conjecture
that the king, remembering the passionate endeavor of the pope to
dissuade him from this marriage, may have recognized a Divine judgment
in its threatened sterility, and may for that reason have decided on
ending it.

This harsh termination of an alliance on which Queen Bertrada had set
her heart, and which she had been the chief agent in bringing to pass,
caused, for the time, an estrangement between mother and son, the only
one, we are told, that ever took place between them.

The repudiation of the Lombard princess of course did not improve the
relations between Desiderius and Charles. Still more strained did those
relations become when, on the death of Carloman, a few months later,
his widow, with her infant children and some trusty adherents crossed
the Alps and placed herself under the protection of the Lombard king.
Charles, we are told, considered this proceeding on the part of his
sister-in-law to be “superfluous,” but nevertheless bore it patiently.
The year 772 was fully occupied with the first of those great campaigns
against the Saxons which will form the subject of a later chapter; and
Charles had no time or energy to spare for the complicated affairs of

But during that year (772) these Italian complications were rapidly
increasing. At the end of January came the death of Pope Stephen III.,
the Sicilian, a weak and ineffectual man, who during all his short
pontificate had been pulled this way and that by the two factions,
the Lombard and the Frankish, which divided the nobility of Rome.
When his insolent letter to Charles failed to divert him from the
Lombard alliance, he had thrown himself into the arms of Desiderius,
and allowed the Lombard faction, headed by a certain Paulus Afiarta,
to work their lawless will in Rome, banishing, blinding, imprisoning,
putting to death the chiefs of the opposite party.

Now, however, on the death of the Sicilian, a very different man was
raised to the vacant papal chair. This was Hadrian I., a man of Roman
birth, of spotless if somewhat ambitious character, capable of forming
and executing large and statesmanlike plans, a man not altogether
unworthy in point of intellect to be compared to the great Emperor
whose name he bore. His pontificate, one of the longest in the papal
annals, lasted very nearly twenty-four years (772–795), so that he
narrowly missed “seeing the years of St. Peter,” and during this long
space of time, common hopes, common dangers, common enterprises drew
him and Charles sometimes very close together, and though there were
also some sharp disputes between them, the king, we are told, “regarded
the pope as his chief friend, and when he received the tidings of his
death wept for him as for a much loved son or brother.”

As soon as Hadrian assumed the pontifical robe it was manifest to all
men that the unnatural friendship between pope and Lombard king had
come to an end. The prison doors were opened for the anti-Lombard
partizans, the civil and military officers who had been driven into
exile were recalled. Paulus Afiarta himself was tried and put to death
by the Archbishop of Ravenna. Hadrian indeed seems to have exerted
himself that the sentence might be commuted to banishment, but there is
no doubt that he thoroughly approved of criminal proceedings of some
kind being taken against the great unscrupulous Lombard partizan.

The action of Desiderius at this eventful crisis of his nation’s
history is not easy to understand: it is only possible here to describe
its general course without entering into details. He seems to have
recognized that he had an enemy in the new pope and one of a more
determined kind than either Paul I. or Stephen III., whose demands
for a further cession of territory he had been for the last fifteen
years successfully evading. Apparently, however, he cherished the
hope that by a judicious mixture of threats and entreaties he might
draw the pope over to his side and induce him to anoint the infant
sons of Carloman as Kings of the Franks. For to this desperate act
of defiance to Charles was he now impelled both by the memory of his
daughter’s wrongs and by the conviction that, sooner or later, war
must again break out between the Frank and the Lombard. In this frame
of mind he despatched alternately embassies to sue for the pope’s
friendship and armies to invade his territory. The rapid changes of his
attitude probably irritated the pontiff then as much as they perplex
the historian to-day. First Faenza, Ferrara, and Comacchio, the latest
acquisitions of the papacy, were occupied; then Ravenna was closely
pressed; Urbino and the greater part of the Pentapolis were invaded;
Blera and Otriculum, not a day’s journey from Rome, were entered by the
Lombard troops, who in the former city are said to have perpetrated a
cruel massacre of the unresisting inhabitants. But all these violent
measures failed to shake the resolution of Hadrian or induce him to
consent to an interview with Desiderius. His uniform answer to the
Lombard ambassadors was, “First let your master restore the possessions
of which he has unjustly despoiled St. Peter; and then, but not till
then, will I grant him an interview.”

At last, when the Lombard king was evidently preparing to tighten his
grip on Rome itself, Pope Hadrian sent a messenger named Peter to beg
for the help of the great King of the Franks. At the same time he did
what he could to put the city in a state of defence, gathering in
soldiers from Tuscany, Campania, and the Pentapolis, removing the most
precious adornments of the churches of St. Peter and St. Paul to safer
custody within the walls of the city, and barring up all the doors
of St. Peter’s so that the Lombard king, without some violent act of
sacrilege, should not be able to enter.

At last, in February or March 773, Peter the papal messenger (having
travelled by sea to Marseilles, as all the land routes were beset by
Lombard soldiers) arrived at Theodo’s villa where Charles was holding
his court. This is the place which the Neustrian citizens of the
French Republic still call Thionville, while the Austrasian subjects
of Kaiser Wilhelm, who have wrested it from the Neustrians, speak of
it as Diedenhofen. It is now a strong border fortress on the Moselle,
sixteen miles north of Metz. Hither, then, came the papal messenger
to utter his master’s piteous cry for help. Probably the ambassadors
of Desiderius appeared there also to deny the charges brought against
him, or to declare that whatever he had forcibly taken from the papal
see he had already surrendered. Charles resolved on war if war was
needful, but, even as his father Pippin had done, he tried diplomacy
first. Three messengers, a bishop, an abbot, and a courtier, were sent
to Italy to inquire into the rights of the quarrel, and on their return
and report that the cities violently taken from St. Peter were not
restored, Charles, still treading in his father’s footsteps, sent one
more embassy to Desiderius, offering the Lombard 14,000 golden solidi
(£8000) if he would restore the conquered cities, and fully satisfy all
the Papal demands. The offer was refused, and Charles having summoned
the Frankish host to his standard, set forward for Italy.

According to a plan which he frequently adopted, and one reason
for which was probably the desire to lessen the difficulties of
commissariat, Charles, after mustering his troops at Geneva, divided
his host into two parts--one of which under his uncle Bernard was to
cross by the Great St. Bernard and to descend upon Aosta, while the
other which he himself commanded, crossing the Mont Cenis, was to take
the road to Susa. Both divisions, as in his father’s time, traversed
the highest points of their respective passes without hindrance, but
when Charles descended into the long and narrow valley of the Dora
Susa, he found his further progress barred by the fortifications and
the army of Desiderius. He renewed his offers of a money payment in
return for the papal cities, he even expressed his willingness to be
satisfied with a mere promise to surrender those cities, if three
Lombard nobles were handed over to him as hostages; but all was in
vain. Strong in the impregnability of his fortifications Desiderius
refused every offer of accommodation, until a sudden panic seized his
host, the fortresses were abandoned, and again, as in Pippin’s time,
all the Lombard army retreated down the valley and shut itself up
behind the walls of Pavia.

So sudden and scarce hoped for a termination to what looked like an
evenly balanced game was naturally attributed by the papal biographer
to a divinely inspired terror; but a Frankish chronicler tells us of
a picked squadron of troops which Charles had sent over an unguarded
pass, and later local tradition spoke of a certain Lombard minstrel who
for a brilliant reward guided the Frankish troops by untrodden ways to
the rear of his countrymen’s position. We know from other evidence that
there were Lombards who were disaffected to Desiderius, and had opened
negotiations with the Frankish king; but the story of treachery in this
case is not well vouched for. It is possible that Bernard’s successful
transit over the pass which preserves the memory of his namesake
saint, may have turned the rear of the Lombard position, and compelled
Desiderius to seek safety in flight.

The siege of Pavia, which was now formed by Charles, began probably
about the end of September, 773, and lasted for ten months. The other
great focus of Lombard resistance was the city of Verona, where
Adelchis, son of Desiderius, commanded the garrison, and where those
important guests Gerberga, widow of Carloman, her children and her
trusty counsellor Autchar had taken refuge. Thither, Charles proceeded
at an early period of the siege of Pavia. The resistance seems to have
been slight, perhaps the garrison was half-hearted. Very soon after
Charles’s arrival, Gerberga and her train came forth from the city
and surrendered themselves to his will. The city itself was probably
surrendered at the same time; and the young prince Adelchis made his
escape to Constantinople. After this point the widow and children of
Carloman vanish from the scene. We should certainly have been informed
if any of them had been put to death, and we may therefore safely
assume that Charles was merciful. There are faint and doubtful traces
of one of the sons as holding the bishopric of Nice.

Charles appears to have spent his Christmas under canvas before the
walls of Pavia, or else in one of the numerous expeditions by which
he brought the cities on the left bank of the Po into his obedience.
But as the siege still dragged on, though there could be little doubt
of its final event, when Easter approached, Charles, with a brilliant
train of dukes and counts, of bishops and abbots, journeyed through
Tuscany to Rome. Never had his father, King Pippin, though he had twice
crossed the Alps, visited the Eternal City, and this was Charles’s
first visit to that Rome with which his name was to be inseparably
linked in after ages. He went by forced marches, hastening to be in
Rome on the eve of Easter Sunday. At thirty miles from the city, Pope
Hadrian ordered that he should be met by the nobles of the _Ducatus
Romae_, displaying the banner of St. Peter. At one mile from the city
the various squadrons of the Roman militia with their officers and
the boys out of the schools met him, all bearing palm-branches and
olive-branches and crosses, and singing loud his praises, for Hadrian
had ordered that in all things the reception of the King of the
Franks should do him as great honor as ever had been done of old to
the patrician and exarch arriving from Ravenna. When Charles saw the
crosses and the banners he dismounted from his horse and went on foot
with all his nobles to the church of St. Peter. There on the top of the
steps stood Pope Hadrian, with all the clergy and people of Rome who
had arisen at dawn to be ready to welcome the victorious king. As he
ascended each step, Charles knelt down and kissed the venerable stones;
and so he reached the summit where, in the long _atrium_ outside the
doors of the church the pope stood waiting to receive him. King and
pontiff were clasped in mutual embrace (we hear nothing of the abject
prostrations performed by later emperors before later popes), and then
holding Hadrian’s right hand Charles entered the great basilica, while
all the clergy and all the monks shouted with loud voices, “Blessed
is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” Then the king and all the
Frankish nobles and churchmen in his train knelt at the tomb of St.
Peter, thanking God for the great victories already wrought through the
intervention of the Prince of the Apostles. On the three following
days, at Sta. Maria Maggiore, at St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s, the king,
after humbly imploring the papal permission, offered up his prayers to
God, and on Easter Sunday there was a great banquet at the Lateran.
Thus we come to the Wednesday on which an important piece of business
was transacted between the two potentates. So much here turns on a few
words that it will be well to give a literal translation of the passage
in the _Liber Pontificalis_ (our only authority), which describes this
memorable interview.

“On the fourth day of the week, the pope, with his staff of officers,
both civil and ecclesiastical, went forth to the church of St. Peter,
and there meeting the king in conference, earnestly prayed him, and
with paternal affection exhorted him, to fulfil in its entirety that
promise which his father, the late King Pippin of blessed memory, had
made, and which he himself with his brother Carloman and all the nobles
of France had confirmed to St. Peter and his vicar Pope Stephen II.,
when he visited Frankland, that they would grant divers cities and
territories in that province of Italy to St. Peter and his vicars for
a perpetual possession. And when he (Charles) had caused that promise
which was made in Frankland in a place called Carisiacum to be read
over to him, all its contents were approved by himself and his nobles.
And of his own accord, with good and willing mind, that most excellent
and most Christian King Charles caused another promise of gift like the
first to be drawn up by Etherius his chaplain and notary, and in this
he granted the same cities and territories to St. Peter and promised
that they should be conveyed to the pope with their boundaries set
forth as is contained in the aforesaid donation, to wit: From Luna with
the island of Corsica, thence to Surianum thence to Mons Bardonis (that
is Vercetum), thence to Parma, thence to Rhegium, and from thence to
Mantua and Mons Silicis, and moreover the whole exarchate of Ravenna
such as it was of old time, and the provinces of Venetia and Istria:
moreover the whole duchies of Spoletium and Beneventum.”

The papal biographer then goes on to describe the signing of this
donation by Charles himself with all his bishops, abbots, dukes, and
counts, its being laid upon the altar of St. Peter, and afterwards
placed within his tomb, and the “terrible oath” which was sworn by all
the signers, promising to St. Peter and Pope Hadrian that they would
keep all the promises contained in the document.

Let us look at the extent of the territories which according to the
papal biographer were thus conveyed to the Roman Pontiff. The island
of Corsica: that is clear though introduced in a curious connection.
Then the line starts from the coast of Italy, just at the point where
the Genoese and Tuscan territory join: it crosses the Apennines and
strikes the Po a little north of Parma. From Mantua it works round to
the head of the Adriatic and includes the peninsula of Istria. The
exarchate of Ravenna, “as it was of old time,” reached inland to the
Apennines and probably is here to be taken as including the Pentapolis.
The extent of the two great Lombard duchies of Spoleto and Benevento is
perfectly well known; they included the whole of Italy south of Ancona
except the duchy of Rome, a little territory round Naples and the
district which is now called Calabria in the extreme south, the toe of

Instead, therefore, of asking what this donation included, it is more
to the purpose to inquire what it excluded. As the duchy of Rome is
apparently treated as already an undoubted part of the papal dominions,
we may say, using modern geographical terms, that if this donation had
ever been carried into effect the popes would have become sovereigns of
the whole of Italy except the Riviera, Piedmont, part of Lombardy north
of the Po, the city of Naples and Calabria.

It is almost impossible to believe that Charles, even in the fervor
caused by his first visit to Rome, his meeting with St. Peter’s vicar,
and his prayers in the great Roman basilicas, can have meant to convey
such vast territories as these to an ecclesiastic, however eminent,
whose pretensions to rank as a civil ruler of any territory, however
small, were only twenty years old. It is absolutely impossible to
believe that his father can (as is here implied) have promised to
endow the pope with territories such as those of Venetia and Istria,
which were in no sense Lombard, and were still in close connection
with the Eastern Empire. The whole subsequent course of history shows
that Charles, with all his lavish generosity to the Holy See, never
seriously contemplated making its occupant the virtual lord of Italy.

What solution of the enigma is possible? The idea of an absolute
fabrication of the document naturally occurs to the mind, especially to
the mind of a student who is constantly confronted with charters forged
in the interests of some church or monastery. This is the view taken by
many modern inquirers, amongst others by Malfatti (the careful author
of “Imperatori e Papi”), who inclines to assign the fabrication of the
document to the ninth century, “famous for so many other fictions of
that kind.”

On the other hand, Abbé Duchesne, the learned and impartial editor of
the _Liber Pontificalis_, declares that he looks upon this passage
as the work of an absolutely contemporary author, and that he cannot
accept the theory of a later fabrication. At the same time he fully
admits that this vast cession of territory to the pope never took
practical effect, and he suggests that somewhere about 781 the pope,
finding that there was no chance of realizing the splendid dream of
sovereignty over the whole of Italy in which he had indulged at the
interview of 774, liberated Charles from the promises then made, in
consideration of some important addition to the duchy of Rome over
which his rule was undisputed. In point of fact we find at that time
the pope unable to maintain himself even in the territory of the
exarchate, which was wrested from him by the ambitious Archbishop of
Ravenna. Prudence may therefore have suggested to him the expediency
of concentrating his attention on the duchy of Rome, and at least
strengthening the frontiers of that possession.

Another theory for which some good arguments may be adduced, is that in
this promised gift we are still dealing not with a grant of sovereignty
but with a restitution of property; that for instance when Spoleto and
Benevento are mentioned, all that Charles undertook, or at least meant
to undertake, was that any “patrimonies” in either of those duchies of
which the see of St. Peter had been unjustly despoiled by the Lombards
should be restored to it.

It is not for the present author to pretend to decide a question on
which so many able scholars are at issue, and to which so many special
treatises have been devoted; but the impression produced on his mind
is that at least the hand of the interpolator, if not that of the
wholesale fabricator, must have been at work in the passage which he
has quoted from the _Liber Pontificalis_.

Having finished his conferences with the Pope, in which he discussed
with him many matters ecclesiastical as well as civil, Charles returned
to his camp under the walls of Pavia. It was now the tenth month of the
siege: disease and probably famine were pressing the defenders hard:
and Desiderius, who had never been a popular sovereign, heard on every
side of the defection of his countrymen. At length on a certain Tuesday
in June (774) the city opened her gates to her conqueror. The great
hoard was handed over, the nobles and chief men from all the cities of
northern Italy came to Charles seated in the royal palace of Pavia, and
acknowledged him as their lord: the dominion of the Lombards in Italy
was at an end.[34]

To Desiderius and his family Charles showed himself merciful in his
triumph. The fallen king was carried across the Alps, accompanied
by his wife and one daughter (whether this was the divorced wife of
Charles we know not), and was invited to enter the seclusion of a
monastery, in Austrasia, where, if any faith is to be placed in the
stories that were current a century or two after his death, he devoted
himself with assiduity to the duties of the cloister, and even declared
that he would not desire to resume his crown, having entered the
service of the King of Kings.

Very soon after the capture of Pavia, Charles was back again on
the Rhine, as the affairs of North Germany required his immediate
attention. It was perhaps in part from the scantiness of his leisure,
but it was surely in part also from his statesmanlike insight into the
conditions of the problem before him, that he made so little change
in the internal constitution of his new kingdom. There was no attempt
to amalgamate the regions north and south of the Alps: Italy did not
become a part of “Francia,” but Charles took his place as successor
of the long line of kings from Alboin to Desiderius who had reigned
over Lombard Italy. “Rex Francorum et Langobardorum atque Patricius
Romanorum”: that was now his full title. As King of the Franks he ruled
the wide regions north of the Alps: as King of the Lombards he ruled
all of Italy that the Lombards had once held: as Patrician of the
Romans he seems to have been recognized as supreme ruler of all the
rest of Italy except the little fragments on the coast which still held
by their allegiance to the eastern emperor.

What, then, during the years of transition between 774 and 800, were
his relations to that eastern emperor? Some answer to this question
will be given in a subsequent chapter. And what were his relations to
the pope, in those territories in which his or his father’s donation
had taken effect? A question almost impossible to answer. Never was
there a more striking case of that phenomenon of the Middle Ages to
which M. Guizot has drawn attention, the co-existence of two opposing
theories of law without any apparent perception of their discord
in the minds of the men who had to carry them into practice. But
though both Charles and the pope are spoken of as sovereigns in these
territories it appears probable--we cannot say more--that Hadrian, had
he been closely questioned on the subject, would have recognized that
even in the duchy of Rome he was, in a manner difficult to define,
subject to the over-lordship of the Frankish king.

As has been said, the conduct of Charles in reference to the kingdom
of Italy, if that of an ambitious man, was on the whole wise and
statesmanlike. This praise can hardly be given to his relations to the
papacy, in which there was a want of that clear and frank statement
of what was granted and what was withheld, which is the only means of
avoiding future misunderstandings between the giver and the receiver
of a benefit. And the consequences of this omission weighed heavily on
Europe for centuries, and often involved two really upright and honest
men, a Pope and an Emperor, in hopeless quarrels.

If we may recur to the simile of a country parish which was used in a
foregoing chapter, the old absentee squire and the big Nonconformist
farmer have both vanished from the scene. In their stead we have a new
squire, young, enthusiastic, and devoted to the Church, who, as all
the rustics see, is “hand and glove with the parson.” But he has other
large estates in a distant county which claim the greater portion of
his time; and, partly in his haste to return to them, partly in the
effusion of his ecclesiastical zeal, he makes or is understood to make
to his clerical friend such promises of subscriptions, endowments,
rebuildings, and upholdings as he finds in after days of calmer
calculation would practically exhaust his whole rent-roll.



The year 772, which opened upon a reunited Frankish kingdom (Carloman
having died at the close of the year preceding), and which was a blank
as far as Frankish operations in Italy were concerned, was memorable as
witnessing the beginning of that long struggle with Saxon independence
and Saxon heathenism which was to occupy thirty-two central years in
the life of Charles the Great.

Whether he entered upon this struggle with a light heart it is
impossible for us to say. Many a time he thought it was ended, but
found that he had only bent not broken the stubborn spirit of his foes,
and assuredly it was with no light heart that he found himself, when
past middle life and entering on his sixth decade, still obliged to
resume his Sisyphean labor.[35]

The different tribes which made up the loosely bound confederation
of the Saxons occupied those territories reaching to the Elbe on the
east, and nearly to the Rhine on the west, which now bear the names of
Hanover, Brunswick, Oldenburgh and Westphalia. This block of territory
was divided in nearly equal parts between the three tribes of the
Westphalians, the Angarians and the Eastphalians, the first and the
last, as we should expect from their names, occupying the western and
eastern and the Angarians (or Engern) the central portion. Then, beyond
the Elbe, between the German Ocean and the Baltic was seated a fourth
section of the Saxon people who bore the name of the Nord-albingians,
and whose territory must have pretty nearly corresponded with the
modern duchy of Holstein.

Thus the Saxons had no connection with the present kingdom of Saxony,
though part of Prussian Saxony was probably within their borders. As
Professor Freeman says in his _Historical Geography of Europe_ (p.
207), “After the breaking up of the great Saxon duchy (1191), from
most of the old Saxon lands the Saxon name may be looked on as having
altogether passed away. The name of Saxony as a geographical expression
clave to the Eastphalian remnant of the old duchy, and to Thuringia and
the Slavonic conquests to the East.” One might add, that by a curious
coincidence, Hanover, the home of the old continental Saxons, was for
123 years (1714–1837) ruled by descendants of Alfred the Great who were
kings of the Saxons over the sea.

These Saxon neighbors of the Franks are not to be thought of as mere
savages. They had probably to some extent exchanged the nomad life of
the shepherd for the more settled habits of the tiller of the ground.
The old Germanic institution of the Folksthing as described by Tacitus,
still apparently flourished among them. They had already been brought
into a sort of loose connection with the Frankish kingdom, having at
intervals paid a yearly tribute of 500 cows to a Merovingian king and
an Arnulfing mayor of the palace. There does not seem any reason to
suppose that at the time of the accession of Charles they nourished
any thought of deadly enmity to their Frankish neighbors, or would
have dreamed of uniting their tribes in a well-organized invasion of
the prosperous Rhine-lands--in fact, throughout the struggle which
followed, the inability of the Saxons to combine for the mere purpose
of defence against impending invasion is conspicuous and absurd. But no
doubt they were lawless and disagreeable neighbors, often indulging in
such raids as for centuries kept the Scottish Border in turmoil, and
above all the majority of them were still heathens. The missionaries
who like Boniface had crossed the sea from England to convert their
German kinsfolk had hitherto labored chiefly among the Frisians, but
had also made some impression on the mass of Saxon heathenism. From
the fierce wars which Penda, the heathen King of Mercia, waged with
Christian Northumberland, we can imagine what suspicious rage the
success of these English missionaries would arouse in the minds of the
still heathen chiefs of the East and Westphalians.

But, after all, it is probable that on the religious as well as on
the political question the attack came from the Frankish side. It was
not so much because the Saxons resented the presence of Christian
missionaries among them, as because Charles resented the fact of the
Saxons continuing in heathenism, that the Thirty Years’ War of the
eighth century was resolved on. Throughout his kingly and imperial
career Charles took the religious part of his duties seriously. It
was not for nothing that he bore the title of _Christianissimus Rex_,
not for nothing that St. Augustine’s famous treatise, _De Civitate
Dei_[36] was the favorite companion of his leisure. In his interviews
with Pope Hadrian at Rome the reform of the Church’s discipline was
apparently the chief subject of conversation; and in the thirty-three
Ecclesiastical Councils which were held during his reign he zealously
co-operated with the churchmen towards the same end. To such a ruler
it was intolerable that tribes which were connected, however loosely,
with his kingdom should still profess a belief in the absurdities of
heathenism. They must be persuaded, or, if persuasion failed, they must
be forced, to become Christians.[37]

At an assembly of the Frankish nation held at Worms (July ? 772)
Charles announced his purpose of carrying war into the country of
the Saxons, and in the early summer he marched with a large army,
accompanied by a multitude of bishops, abbots, and presbyters, into the
territory of the Angarii, the central tribe. The frontier fortress of
Eresburg was taken, and the invaders pressed on to the place where, in
the midst of a sacred grove, stood the celebrated Irminsul, a column
fashioned to imitate the great world-sustaining ash Yggdrasil, which
was the chief object of worship of the Saxon tribes. The idol was hewn
down, the temple overthrown, the hoard of gold and silver ornaments
deposited there by generations of devout Saxons carried off into
Frank-land. The work of destruction lasted three days. It chanced that
there was a great scarcity of water in the place where the Irminsul
had stood. The army was parched with thirst, and perhaps began to be
stirred by superstitious fears that the drought was a punishment for
the destruction of the idol. Suddenly, at noonday, while all the army
was resting, there was a rush of water along a dry river bed. All
the army had enough to drink, and recognized with thanks the Divine
approval of their destructive labors. Charles after this marched to
the banks of the Weser, held there with the Saxons a great palaver (to
borrow a word from modern reports of similar conferences), and received
their submission, for what it was worth, accompanied by the surrender
of twelve hostages.

It would be tedious to copy the particulars, meagre as they are, given
by the chroniclers concerning the eighteen campaigns in which Charles
slowly and remorselessly beat down the resistance of the Saxons. It
will be sufficient to notice some of the chief moments of the struggle.

In 774 Charles, intent on his operations in Italy, had left the
Saxon March comparatively unguarded. Seizing their opportunity, and
apparently heedless of the fate of the twelve hostages who were in
the hands of Charles, the heathen crossed the frontier in great force
and entered Hesse, which they laid waste with fire and sword. The
objective of their attack was the abbey and church of Fritzlar, which
had been founded near half a century before by the great Englishman,
St. Boniface. The saint had prophesied that his church should never
be destroyed by fire, and the barbarians certainly seem to have been
prevented--by supernatural means, says the legend--from wrapping it in
flames, but there can be little doubt that they robbed it of all its
treasures, thus taking speedy revenge for the destruction of their own
Irminsul. Charles meanwhile returned from his triumphant campaign in
Italy only to hear of the insult that had been offered to his crown
and his creed by a barbarous foe. The season was far advanced, but,
mustering his troops at Ingelheim (a little southwest of Mainz), he
sent them in four squadrons into Saxon-land. Three of the squadrons
found the Saxons and fought them; the fourth marched through their land
unopposed. All returned laden with booty to the Rhine.

Charles spent the winter of 774–775 in his palace at Quierzy, on the
Oise, and there came to the conclusion “that he would attack the
perfidious and truce-breaking nation of the Saxons in war, and would
persevere therein until they were either conquered and made subject
to the Christian religion or were altogether swept off the face of
the earth.” It was easier to form a ruthless resolution like this in
the privacy of the palace than to carry it into actual execution. The
campaign of 775, though planned on a large scale, does not differ
greatly from previous campaigns in character. The king held a general
assembly at Düren, at which apparently the programme of “Christianity
or death” for the Saxons was submitted and approved.[38] Then, in
August, Charles marched eastwards, took from the Westphalians their
strong fortress of Sigiburg, on the Ruhr; retook Eresburg, which
had been taken by the Angarii; and then pressed on into the land
of the Eastphalians, who do not appear to have offered any serious
resistance to his arms. But both with the Angarii and the Eastphalians
the campaign ended with the usual formalities of oaths of fealty and
surrender of hostages; we do not yet hear of that wholesale conversion
or extirpation which Charles had vowed at his setting forth. Moreover,
while he was thus penetrating into the recesses of the enemies’
country, part of his force, which he had left in Westphalia to guard
his communications with the Rhine, suffered a serious loss from a Saxon
surprise. Their camp was pitched at Lidbach, near Minden; it was three
o’clock in the afternoon; some of the cavalry had gone forth to forage
for their horses; the rest of the army was indulging in a siesta;
a troop of Saxons mingled with the returning foragers, feigning
themselves to be their comrades (of course the warriors of that day
wore no uniform), and thus obtained admission to the camp, where they
made great slaughter of the half-asleep and unarmed soldiers. It is
said that the Franks succeeded at last in driving the invaders out of
the camp, and that Charles, hurrying from the east, slew a multitude
of the retreating Saxons, but it is probable that we have here the
story, only slightly veiled, of a serious Frankish reverse. Next
year (776) Eresburg, taken and retaken, was again the prize of war.
Sigiburg was attacked, but bravely and successfully defended. Charles
came with impetuous rush to the sources of the Lippe, and found there
a multitude of Saxons, who had flocked thither from all quarters, and
who, terrified by Charles’s successes, declared their willingness to
embrace Christianity, to become faithful subjects of Charles and of
the Franks, and to perform the symbolical act by which they would give
him corporal possession of the soil of their country. An innumerable
multitude of Saxons, with their wives and children, were baptized in
the Lippe stream that flowed past the Frankish camp; hostages, as many
as Charles asked for, were given; Eresburg was rebuilt, many other
castles were reared, detachments of Franks were posted throughout the
country, and the king returned into Frank-land to keep his Christmas
at Heristal and his Easter at Nimeguen, feeling probably that the
programme of Quierzy was now realized, and that the heathen and
truce-breaking Saxons had at last become Christians and stable subjects
of his realm.[39]

But the subjugation was only apparent; there was one man ready, at
least for a time, to play the part of Arminius, and to resist foreign
domination to the death. The next nine years of the long contest
(777–785) may be best characterized as the years of Widukind’s strife
for freedom.

In the year 777 King Charles held a public synod at Paderborn in the
heart of Saxon-land. It was attended, not only by all the Frankish
nobles, but also by nearly all the chiefs of the Saxon tribes.
“Perfidiously,” says the chronicler, “did they promise to mould
their manners to the king’s mind, and to devote themselves to his
service. They received pardon from the king on this condition, that
if thereafter they violated his statutes, they should be deprived of
fatherland and freedom. At the same place there were baptized a very
great multitude who, although falsely, had declared that they wished to
become Christians.”

But at this great assembly there was not seen the face of Widukind, a
Westphalian chief who had large possessions both in Westphalia and also
in Mid Saxony, and who must have already taken a leading part in the
resistance to the Frankish arms, since he was, says the chronicler,
“conscious of having committed many crimes and feared to face the king,
wherefore he had fled to Sigfrid, King of the Danes.”

Next year Charles led his army into Spain on that memorable expedition
which ended in the disaster of Roncesvalles.[40] Hearing that he was
engaged in so remote a region, and perhaps also having some tidings of
his ill-success, the Saxons, headed by Widukind, rose in rebellion,
crossed the hills which formed their Western boundary and poured into
the valley of the Rhine. The great river itself, not the Frankish
armies, barred their further progress, but they rushed along the right
bank from Deutz to Coblentz ravaging and burning. “Buildings sacred
and profane were equally laid in ruins. No distinction of age or of
sex was made by their hostile fury, so that it was plainly manifest
that not for the sake of booty but in order to wreak vengeance they
had crossed the frontier of the Franks.” Incidentally we learn that so
great was the terror caused by this inroad that the monks of Fulda took
from the tomb their greatest treasure, the body of the holy Boniface,
and journeyed with it two days into Frankish territory, but then
hearing that the tide of invasion was turned, went back to redeposit
their treasure at Fulda. For Charles, on learning the tidings of the
Saxon invasion, had not thought it necessary with his war-wearied army
to undertake a regular campaign, but had sent a flying squadron of
Franks, who by forced marches came up with the Saxons at the river
Eder, attacked them while crossing the stream, and inflicted upon them
grievous loss.

In the next few years we hear the oft-repeated story of rapid marches
right through Saxon-land even to the Elbe, no effectual stand made
by the Saxons, but raids and insurrections headed by the restless
Widukind. In 780 Charles begins to busy himself with the ecclesiastical
organization of the conquered country. In 782 (apparently) he holds
a _placitum_ at the sources of the Lippe, and there promulgates his
stern _Capitulatio de partibus Saxoniæ_. On any one who violently
enters a church and robs it, shall be inflicted the punishment of
death; on any one who despises the Christian custom of Lent and eats
flesh therein, death (but his life may be saved if the priest shall
certify that flesh was necessary for his health); on any one who slays
bishop or presbyter, death; on any one who in pagan fashion believes in
witchcraft and burns the supposed witch, death; on any one practising
cremation instead of burial, death; on any Saxon hiding himself in
order to escape baptism and remain in paganism, death; on any one
offering sacrifice to the demons of the pagans, death; on any one who
shall conspire with the pagans against the Christians, or seek to
continue with them in hostility to the Christian faith, death. Yet if,
after privily committing any of these crimes, the criminal shall flee
to a priest, make confession and do penance, on the priest’s testimony
the capital punishment shall be remitted. At the same time a strict
tithe-law was passed. “We enact that according to the command of God,
all men, whether nobles, freeborn men or _liti_ (serfs), shall give the
tenth part of their substance and labor to the churches and priests, so
that as God shall have given to every Christian he shall restore a part
to God.”

This rigorous Act of Uniformity stirred the deep resentment of the
Saxons. But perhaps discontent might not have burst into a flame but
for the return of Widukind from his wonted Danish refuge, and for the
harangues with which he stirred the vain hopes of the Saxons and roused
them to revolt (782). At the same time tidings were brought to Charles
of an incursion of a Sclavonic tribe, the Sorabi, from beyond the
Elbe. The Frankish king presumed too far on the apparent pacification
of Saxon-land. Like his great imitator, Napoleon, he would use the
last-conquered people to subdue the enemy next beyond them, and he
sent an army composed of Saxons as well as Austrasian Franks to repel
the Sclavonic incursion. Adalgisus the chamberlain, Geilo the count of
the stables, and Worad the count of the palace, commanded the motley
host; but when they entered Saxon-land they found the whole country
already in a flame, and the Saxons, by the advice of Widukind, about
to march into Francia. Wisely postponing the expedition against the
Sorabi, they marched with their Frankish troops--the Saxon contingent
had doubtless deserted--to the place where they heard that the rebel
host was gathered. In the heart of the enemies’ country they met
Count Theodoric, a relation of the king’s, who had made a hasty levy
of troops in Rhine-land on hearing of the Saxon revolt. Seeing the
over-zeal of the three courtiers, Theodoric advised them to make
careful reconnaissances of the enemy’s position, and proposed that,
if the ground proved favorable, a joint attack should be made on
the Saxon camp at the hill Suntal, near Minden. In pursuance of the
suggested plan, they crossed the Weser and pitched their camp on the
north bank of the river. Then, fearing that the renown of the joint
victory would accrue to the king’s cousin Theodoric, they determined to
attack the Saxons alone. Underrating the steadfastness of their foes
they dashed headlong and in loose order into the camp, more as if they
were pursuing a flying foe than charging an enemy drawn up in order
of battle. This time the Frankish fury failed before the stolid Saxon
stubbornness. They were surrounded by the enemy, and terrible slaughter
was made in their ranks. A few Franks escaped, not to their quarters
of the morning, but to the camp of Theodoric; but Adalgisus and Geilo,
four counts, twenty nobles of high rank, and a multitude of followers,
who, in the true spirit of the old German _comitatus_, preferred to die
rather than survive their lords, fell on the field of fight. The battle
of Mount Suntal was certainly the greatest disaster that befell the
Frankish arms in the whole course of the Thirty Years’ War.

Terrible was the anger of Charles when he heard of the Saxon rising, of
the murders of priests and monks with which it had been accompanied,
and lastly of the deep humiliation inflicted on his race by the defeat
of the three generals. He collected a large army and entered the land
of the Saxons. When thus in earnest he seems to have been always able
to crush their resistance. Widukind fled for the fourth or fifth time
to Denmark, and the land lay prostrate at the feet of Charles. He
summoned before him all the chiefs of the Saxons, and made inquisition
concerning the author of the revolt. With one voice all named Widukind,
the absent Widukind. As he could not be arrested, the men who had
listened to his persuasions must suffer. Four thousand five hundred men
(including probably some of the chiefs of the nation) who had shown
themselves foremost in the revolt were surrendered to Charles. It was
expected probably that the ringleaders only out of this number would
suffer; but Charles was evidently in a Berserk rage.[41] All the 4500
Saxons were beheaded in one day at Verden on the banks of the Aller.
“Having perpetrated this act of vengeance, the king went into winter
quarters at the villa of Theodo, and there celebrated the birth of our
Lord, and there also the festival of Easter, according to his wonted

The year 783 was to Charles a year of domestic sorrow but of military
triumph. His wife Hildegard (whom he had married immediately after
the repudiation of the daughter of Desiderius) died on the 30th of
April; his loved and honored mother, Bertrada, on the 12th of July;
but immediately after his wife’s funeral he entered Saxon-land with a
powerful army, vanquished his enemies with great slaughter at Detmold,
vanquished them again in the neighborhood of Osnabrück, where “there
was slain of the Saxons an infinite multitude, great booty was taken,
and a large number of captives was led away.” He then swept with his
victorious army from the Weser to the Elbe, ravaging wherever he
went--for it was thus that this great preacher of Christianity argued
for the faith--and then returning to Frankland married his fourth wife,
Fastrada, the daughter of the Frankish count Radolf.

The next year (784) was somewhat less successful, owing to widespread
inundations, the result of sudden and heavy rains, which stopped the
victor’s progress northward; but his young son Charles, who had been
left with a part of the army in Westphalia while Charles himself went
southward towards Thuringia, won a great cavalry battle on the banks of
the Lippe. And this year Charles made a new departure. After a short
autumnal visit to Frankland, he returned into Saxon-land, spent his
Christmas in the neighborhood of Pyrmont, and went into winter quarters
at the now strongly fortified Eresburg.

“And when he had decided to winter there,” says the chronicler, “having
sent for wife and children to join him, and having left in the said
camp a sufficiently staunch and strong garrison, he went forth himself
with a flying squadron to lay waste the townships of the Saxons and
to plunder their farms, and thus by himself and by the generals whom
he sent in different directions, marching everywhere, and everywhere
carrying fire and slaughter, he paid back the Saxons in their own coin
and gave them a sufficiently uneasy winter.” After holding a general
assembly at Paderborn, Charles marched unopposed through Saxon-land
as far as the Elbe. In the district of Bardengau, near the mouth of
that river, Charles halted, looking across the river to the territory
of the yet unsubdued Transalbian Saxons who dwelt in the land that is
now called Holstein. While he was here news was brought to him that
Widukind and a confederate, perhaps a kinsman, named Abbio were willing
to surrender themselves and forswear further resistance if they could
be assured of their personal safety. A Frankish courtier named Amalwin
was sent across the Elbe with hostages for the safe-conduct which he
bore to the two Saxon chiefs. They accompanied him on his return, and
were brought into the presence of Charles, who was by this time back
again across the Rhine and at his palace of Attigny on the Aisne, near
the forest of Ardennes. Charles received his fallen foes graciously.
They were both baptized, Charles himself acting as godfather to
Widukind and presenting him with costly gifts. As far as we can see,
both honestly accepted the duties which the pledge of fealty to the
most Christian king involved. Authentic history after this point is
silent as to the name of Widukind, but legends, for which there is very
likely some foundation, represent him as not only a contented but even
an ardent votary of his new faith, a founder of churches and convents,
and an endower of the bishopric of Minden. It is probable that he was
allowed to retain his large possessions in Westphalia, and he has been
chosen as a favorite peg by German genealogists on which to hang the
descent of their Serene and Princely patrons. The least doubtful of
these pedigrees appears to be that which makes the great Emperor Otho a
descendant, through his mother Matilda, of the Saxon hero.

The submission of Widukind ended for the time the resistance of the
Saxons. “That obstinacy of the Saxon perfidy rested for some years,
chiefly for this reason, that they could not find opportunities for
revolting suitable to the matter in hand,” is the quaint remark of the

This peace lasted for six or seven years, in one of which (789) we are
told that the king “arranged all matters pertaining to the Saxons,
suitably to the time.” That is to say, no doubt, the yoke of Church and
State was being fitted to the stubborn Saxon neck. So confident was
Charles of the subjugation of his foe that he employed both Saxons and
Frisians in the campaigns in which he was now busily engaged on the
Middle Danube against the kingdom of the Avars.

The fact, however, that the Frankish power was thus engaged in a tough
struggle with an enemy in the south, at last emboldened the Saxons
to make another stand for freedom. Again they allied themselves with
the Frisians, and on the 6th of July, 792, the first blow was struck.
A portion of Charles’s army which had, for some unexplained purpose,
been sent in ships to the mouth of the Elbe was set upon by the
insurgents of the two allied nations and cut to pieces. This evidence
of unslumbering hostility does not seem to have effectually diverted
Charles’s attention from his Danubian campaign, but next year (793)
tidings of a similar but more overwhelming disaster were brought to him
at his quarters in Bavaria. Count Theodoric, the king’s kinsman and a
valiant and trusted general (the same who had saved the Frankish army
from annihilation on the disastrous day of Suntal), had been leading an
army through the district of Rustringen, on the borders of Friesland
and Saxon-land, and at some little distance to the west of the Weser.
The reason for his presence in that region is not told us, but it was
probably the desire to check the revolt which had burst forth in the
preceding summer. What is certain is that he was set upon by the
Saxons, his army destroyed, and apparently himself slain. Now, at any
rate, if not already in the previous year, the rebellion assumed that
character of ruthless vindictiveness, especially against churchmen,
which showed how sorely the Saxons had been galled by Charles’s
ecclesiastical ordinances. “As a dog returneth to his vomit,” says an
annalist, “so did they return to the paganism which they had aforetime
renounced, again deserting Christianity, lying not less to God than to
their lord the king, who had conferred upon them so many benefits, and
joining themselves to the pagan nations who dwelt round about them.
Sending their emissaries to the Avars, they endeavored to rebel first
against God, then against the king and the Christians. They laid waste
all the churches which were within their borders with burning and
destruction; they rejected the bishops and presbyters who were set over
them; some they took prisoners and others they slew, and, in short,
they turned themselves right round to the worship of idols.”

When the news of Theodoric’s defeat reached the king it found him,
as before stated, in camp in the centre of Bavaria. The war with the
Avars was prospering, but it was still a long way from completion. To
deal with two enemies in such widely separated regions as Hanover and
Hungary was a hard problem for a commander-in-chief in the eighth
century. Charles sought to solve it by a characteristic stroke of his
truly imperial genius, and though he failed, even the failure attests
the grandeur of his conceptions. Near the Bavarian town of Weissenburg
a little stream called the Schwäbische Rezat takes its rise, within a
few miles of a larger river, the Altmühl. The Rezat flows northward
into the Main, and so eventually into the Rhine and the German Ocean.
The Altmühl, on the other hand, soon reaches the Danube, and so sends
its waters at last into the Black Sea. Charles’s idea (suggested to
him by some professed experts, but eagerly embraced) was to make a
navigable canal between the Rezat and the Altmühl, and thus transport
his troops and their provisions at will by river navigation either
northward against the Saxons or eastward against the Avars. During
the whole autumn of 793 a vast multitude of men labored at the great
enterprise. They dug a fosse two miles long and three hundred feet
wide, but it was all in vain. Nature was too strong for them. The
marshy quality of the soil, made worse by autumnal rains, thwarted
the operations of the diggers, and however much they dug out by day,
by night the heaps had all sunk back into the swampy level. There is
still, however, a trench about five miles south-west of Weissenburg
called the Fossa Carolina, which remains as a monument of the great
king’s project. “What a change” (as has been truly said by Pastor
Meier, a Bavarian priest who traced the course of the Roman _Limes
Imperii_ through these regions), “what stir, and what activity would
have filled all those quiet plains if the grand scheme of Kaiser Karl
(not yet Kaiser) had been realized, and this tiny streamlet, the Rezat,
had seen the interchange of the products of the east and west.” The
scheme itself, or something like it, was carried into execution by
King Louis I. of Bavaria, but owing to the introduction of the railway
system König-Ludwigs-Kanal, like so many other artificial waterways,
has lost much of its importance.

Foiled in this endeavor King Charles allowed the year 793 to pass
without an attempt to punish the Saxon rebellion. The next six years
(794–799) each had its Saxon campaign. The general features of the
war are very similar to those which we have already noticed: rapid
marches of the Frankish king, devastation of the Saxon country, oaths
of submission and Saxon hostages. It is noteworthy that Charles now
carries back into Frank-land large numbers of these hostages--all
apparently young lads--has them educated as Christians, generally as
ecclesiastics, and when peace is restored instals them in the various
churches and convents wherewith, as the Roman _imperator_ of old with
his _coloniæ_, he fastens down the conquered country. It is also to be
observed that the struggle is now chiefly confined to the northern part
of Saxon-land, to the great _gau_ of Wigmodia, which stretched between
Bremen and Hamburg, and to the Nordalbingi who, as has been said,
occupied what is now the duchy of Holstein. Further, that Charles,
Teuton as he was, did not object to avail himself of the help of a
Sclavonic people, the Abodrites, who were the eastern neighbors of the
Saxons, and that he bitterly avenged the death of their king Witzin on
“the perfidious Saxon nation,” into whose snares he had fallen (795).

In several of these campaigns the Frankish king was effectually
seconded by his son Charles, now a young man of between twenty and
thirty, to whom it was the father’s custom to entrust a portion of his
army that a combined attack might be made from different points of the
compass. The plan of operations seems to have been generally well laid,
for we never hear of these concerted invasions failing to meet at the
point agreed upon.

One of the fiercest campaigns was that of 798 against the Nordalbingi,
who had grievously enraged Charles by the murder of his _missi_ or
plenipotentiaries, one of whom was clothed with the sacred character
of an ambassador to the King of Denmark. In his vengeance for this
murder Charles was powerfully seconded by Thrasco, Duke of the

During the next four eventful years (800–803) Charles had abundant
occupation south of the Alps. In 804 he led his army into Saxon-land,
“transferred all the Saxons who dwelt beyond the Elbe and in Wigmodia
with their wives and children into Frank-land, and gave the shires
beyond the Elbe to the Abodrites.” As these Sclavonian allies of
Charles were heathens, this handing over to them of the duchy of
Holstein was so far a confession of failure in the attempt to win
the whole of the Saxon territory for Christianity. The number of the
Saxons on both banks of the Elbe thus transported is given by Einhard
at 10,000. When the inhabitants of whole districts were thus forcibly
removed, much injustice, even from the point of view of Frankish “law
and order,” must often have been committed. In the next generation
complaints reached the ears of Charles’s successor from the sons of
loyal and peaceable dwellers by the Weser who had been swept off into
exile together with the rebel Wigmodians, and had never recovered the
property of which they were then despoiled.

The resistance of the Saxons was powerfully aided by their Danish
neighbor on the north. “Godofrid, King of Denmark,” says the
chronicler, “with his fleet and all the cavalry of his kingdom came
to a place which is called Sliesthorp, on the borders of his kingdom
and Saxon-land, for a conference with Charles, but would not venture
further. Charles remained close to the river Elbe in a place which is
called Holdunsteti, from whence he sent an embassy to Godofrid to treat
about the surrender of deserters.” As “the place called Sliesthorp” is
Schleswig, and “the place called Holdunsteti” is Holstein, the student
of contemporary history will recognize in this passage the germs of
that controversy on “the Schleswig-Holstein question” which was settled
in our day by the Dano-German war and led eventually to the supremacy
of Prussia in the Germanic Confederation.[42]

At last the Saxon war was ended. The wholesale transportation of
inhabitants to which Charles had at length resorted, and which was
balanced by the invitation to Franks to settle in the evacuated
lands--acts which remind us of the proceedings of Shalmaneser and
Nebuchadnezzar towards the people of Israel--had the desired effect.

    “Freedom’s battle once begun
     Bequeathed from bleeding sire to son”

in this instance was not “ever won.” Christianity, or a religion which
believed itself to be Christianity, was triumphant from the Rhine to
the Elbe, and three fat bishoprics, Bremen, Münster, and Paderborn,
divided between themselves the conquered land. “Saxonia” was henceforth
an inseparable part of the newly-founded Frankish Empire.



In tracing the history of Charles’s long struggle with the Saxons we
have come down to a very late point in the story of his reign. We must
now retrace our steps and notice some of the more important events that
happened during that struggle of thirty years. And first it will be
well to deal with some of the unsuccessful attempts that were made in
various parts of his dominions, other than Saxon-land, to throw off the
yoke of this strong and masterful ruler.

Less than two years after the downfall of the Lombard monarchy, at the
end of 775, when Charles was fully committed to his life-and-death
contest with Saxon heathenism, he received tidings of an attempt on the
part of at least one Lombard duchy to recover its independence. Before
leaving Italy he had either appointed a Lombard noble named Hrodgaud,
Duke of Friuli, or had confirmed him in the possession of that duchy.
Forum Julii, which we now know by the name of Friuli, and whose chief
city is now called Cividale, included the fertile lands north of the
Venetian Gulf, and was of primary importance to the Frankish king as it
touched on the one side the provinces of Venetia and Istria (wavering
at this time between allegiance to him and their old allegiance to
Constantinople) and on the other side the lands of the Duke of Bavaria,
who, as we shall soon see, was one of the most untrustworthy of subject

Hrodgaud appears to have been engaged in some obscure negotiations
with the Lombard dukes of Chiusi and Benevento for cutting short the
new papal territories, perhaps also for bringing in the exiled son of
Desiderius and raising once more the standard of Lombard independence.
But the combination failed, owing perhaps in part to the death of
the Emperor Constantine V., which happened in the autumn of 775.
The young Lombard prince Adelchis failed to make his appearance in
Italy; the Dukes of Chiusi and Benevento hung back from the dangerous
enterprise and Hrodgaud of Friuli was left alone to meet the Frankish
avenger. His courage did not fail; he seems to have proclaimed himself
king, doubtless “King of the Lombards,” and persuaded many cities in
Northern Italy to join his standard. But Charles, warned of his revolt
before the end of 775, crossed the Alps in the early months of 776.
The passes cannot yet have been open, and it must have been with a
small but select body of troops that he made his rapid descent upon
Friuli. Hrodgaud seems to have fallen in battle. Cividale surrendered.
Treviso, where Hrodgaud’s father-in-law, Stabilinus, sought to prolong
the struggle, was also captured and was the scene of Charles’s Easter
festivities. All the other revolted cities were taken, and in June
Charles recrossed the Alps to march swiftly northward to recapture the
oft-taken Eresburg, and to baptize some thousands of Saxons in the

Considering the difficulties of locomotion at that time this short
Italian campaign against Hrodgaud seems to have been one of the most
rapid and brilliant of all the military operations of King Charles. The
suppression of the revolt was followed, not indeed by bloodshed, but
by severe confiscations of the property of the insurgents. We have a
piteous account by the great Lombard historian, Paulus Diaconus,[43] of
the seven years’ captivity of his brother, who is generally believed
to have been punished for his share in this insurrection. “My brother
languishes a captive in your land, broken-hearted, in nakedness and
want. His unhappy wife, with quivering lips, begs for bread from street
to street. Four children must she support in this humiliating manner,
whom she is scarce able to cover even with rags.”

The next threatening of internal disaffection came from a quarter in
which the sky had long looked lowering. Tassilo III., Duke of Bavaria,
was the most independent and high-spirited of all the subject nobles
in the Frankish kingdom. Sprung from the old Agilolfing line, which
for more than two centuries had ruled the Bavarian people, he had
some pretensions to a descent from Merovingian royalty, and was the
undoubted grandson of Charles Martel, and therefore first cousin of
King Charles, with whom he was strictly contemporary, having been born
in the year 742. The dependence of Bavaria upon the Frankish crown
had always been of the slightest kind, consisting of little more than
a verbal recognition of the supremacy of the Frankish king, and the
sending of a contingent to serve in the Frankish army, while, in all
the details of ordinary administration, the will of the Agilolfing
duke seems to have been practically supreme. Moreover, close ties
of affinity and common interests had long united the ducal house
of Bavaria and the regal house of Lombard Italy. Together they had
resisted the incursions of their turbulent neighbors on the east, the
Avars and the Sclaves; together they had sought, rather by diplomacy
than by war, to keep at a distance from them the domineering Frank.

In the later years of Pippin, as has been already stated, this tendency
of Bavaria to independence was openly displayed. It is true that in the
year 757, when Pippin was holding his _placitum_ at Compiègne, thither
came the young Tassilo with the chiefs of his nation, and, “after the
Frankish manner placing his hands in the hands of the king, commended
himself unto him in vassalage, and promised fidelity both to King
Pippin himself and to his sons Charles and Carloman by an oath on the
body of St. Dionysius, and not only there, but also over the bodies
of St. Martin and St. Germanus with a similar oath promised that he
would keep faith towards his aforesaid lords all the days of his life.
And similarly all the chiefs and seniors of the Bavarians who had come
with him into the presence of the king promised at the said holy places
that they would keep faith towards the king and his sons.” But the very
insistence on this ceremony probably showed that the loyalty of the
Bavarians was deemed precarious. It is certain that six years later
(763), in the very crisis of the war with Aquitaine, “Tassilo, Duke
of Bavaria, neglected his oaths and all his promises, forgot all the
benefits which he had received from his uncle, King Pippin, and, making
a fraudulent excuse of sickness, withdrew himself from the campaign.
Then, strengthening his resolution to revolt, he stoutly declared that
he would come no more into the king’s presence.” This was nothing less
than to commit the crime of _harisliz_ (military desertion), which,
according to Frankish law, was punishable by death. But as we saw, King
Pippin wisely determined to fight with one enemy at a time, and devoted
all his energies to the long war with Waifar of Aquitaine, a war which
practically occupied him till the end of his days. Thus the _harisliz_
of Tassilo III. went for the time unpunished.

Then came Charles’s accession to the throne, and his marriage with
the daughter of Desiderius. By this marriage a tie of affinity was
formed between the two cousins,--the lord and the contumacious
vassal,--for Tassilo also about the same time married another daughter
of Desiderius, named Liutberga. It seemed for a short time as if Frank,
Bavarian, and Lombard might dwell together in amity; but only for a
short time. Soon followed the repudiation of the Lombard princess, Pope
Hadrian’s cry for help, the invasion of Italy, the fall of the Lombard
kingdom. During all these stirring events Tassilo seems to have
remained quiescent, yet assuredly then, if ever, would have been his
chance to assert the independence after which he yearned.

So too during the rebellion of Hrodgaud of Friuli, when doubtless he
might have intercepted Charles’s passage, and made the suppression of
that rebellion a much more tedious affair than it actually was, Tassilo
made no sign. He seems to have thought his sulky attitude of isolation
and _de facto_ independence of his lord would maintain itself without
any trouble on his part, but he was greatly mistaken. His Frankish
over-lord was no _roi fainéant_ to let his rights thus quietly glide
into desuetude.

Charles tried first spiritual means, which were perhaps suggested by
the fact of his finding himself in the presence of the pope. Towards
the end of 780, in one of those short lulls in the storm which made
him deem the work of the subjugation of the Saxons complete, Charles
visited Italy, kept his Christmas in the old Lombard palace at Pavia,
held a _placitum_[44] at Mantua, and at Easter visited Rome. He was
accompanied by his wife and his sons, Carloman and Louis, children of
four and three years old. Carloman, who had not yet been baptized,
was raised from the baptismal font by Pope Hadrian, who gave him the
ancestral name of Pippin, and being anointed by the pope was declared
by his father to be King of Italy. At the same time his yet more
infantile brother, Louis, was anointed King of Aquitaine. Of course
in both cases all kingly power remained in the hands of the great
War-lord; but apparently the object of the ceremony was something like
that which caused our Edward I. to name the baby Edward of Caernarvon,
Prince of Wales. National pride was soothed, and national patriotism in
some degree reassured, by the presence of a court and the assurance of
a separate administration, even though the nominal head of the court
was a little child in the nursery.

While Charles was at Rome there was converse between him and the pope
concerning the Duke of Bavaria. Tassilo had been a liberal friend to
the Church, and had successfully prosecuted the enterprise of the
conversion of the Sclaves on his eastern frontier. Hadrian well knew
how strained were the relations between duke and king, and was, we
may believe, sincerely anxious to reconcile Tassilo to his mighty
cousin. A joint embassy was despatched to the Bavarian court: the pope
being represented by the bishops, Damasus and Formosus, the king by
the deacon Richulf and Eberhard the arch-cupbearer. “And when,” says
the chronicler, “these emissaries, obedient to their instruction,
had conversed with the aforesaid duke, and reminded him of his old
oaths to King Pippin, King Charles and the Franks, his heart was so
much softened that he declared his willingness to hasten at once to
the king’s presence, if such hostages were given him as to remove all
doubt of his personal safety. These having been given, he came without
delay to the king at Worms, swore the oath which was dictated to him,
and gave twelve chosen hostages for the fulfilment of his promise
that he would keep as towards King Charles and his loyal subjects all
the oaths which he had sworn aforetime to King Pippin. These hostages
were promptly brought to the king in his villa of Quierzy by Sindbert,
Bishop of Ratisbon. But the said duke returning home did not long
remain in the faith which he had promised.”

Notwithstanding the ominous words with which the chronicler concludes,
a great moral victory had certainly been gained by Charles, and the
attitude of sullen semi-independence which Tassilo had maintained for
nearly twenty years was now abandoned.

For six years (781–787) the name of Tassilo disappears from the
chronicles, and we may conclude that he was for so long a fairly loyal
subject of the Frankish kingdom, or rather perhaps that he committed
no such open act of rebellion as to compel Charles, engrossed as he was
during these years by the war with Widukind, to send any of his sorely
needed Frankish warriors for the chastisement of his Bavarian vassal.

Moreover, the open enmity of the Saxons was not the only danger that
at this time menaced the security of the Frankish throne. In the year
785, immediately after the baptism of Widukind, we have the following
mysterious entry in the chronicles: “There was made in that same year
on the other side of the Rhine a vast conspiracy of the eastern Franks
against the king, of which it was proved that Count Hardrad was the
author. But information thereof was speedily brought to the king, and
by his shrewdness so mighty a conspiracy shortly collapsed without
any great danger, the authors thereof being condemned, some to death,
some to privation of sight, and some to deportation and exile.” Even
the king’s life was aimed at by the conspirators, yet Einhard assures
us that none of the conspirators were actually killed save three who
drew their swords upon the officers who were sent to arrest them.
The cause of this sudden outbreak of Austrasian jealousy and rage
against the great Austrasian hero must remain a mystery. Some of the
authorities seem to speak of it as a specially Thuringian conspiracy,
and one attributes it to the refusal of a Thuringian chief to hand
over his daughter to a Frankish suitor to whom she was betrothed.
An attempt has been made to account for it as the last struggle of
Thuringian independence, dismayed at seeing the Saxons on the north
and the Bavarians on the south subjected to the all-mastering Frankish
king. It seems, however, more probable that it was a personal, palace
conspiracy. Possibly Einhard gives us the requisite clue when he
attributes both this and a subsequent conspiracy to the cruelty of
Charles’s queen Fastrada who “diverted her husband from the kindness
and accustomed gentleness of his nature.”

Towards the end of 786 Charles again marched into Italy, where the
not only independent but even hostile attitude of Arichis, Prince of
Benevento called for his attention. Having spent his Christmas at
Florence, and paid his devotions at the tombs of the Apostles in Rome,
he proceeded southward (787), and on the confines of the Beneventan
territory was met by Romwald, son of Arichis, with gifts and promises
and entreaties that he would not enter his father’s territory. But
Charles, says the chronicler, “thinking that he must deal very
differently with an enterprise once begun, kept Romwald with him and
marched with all his army to Capua, where he pitched his camp, and
would have carried on the war from thence, unless the aforesaid duke
had anticipated his intention by wholesome counsel. For leaving his
capital, Benevento, he betook himself with all his followers to the
seaport of Salerno, as being a more fortified city, and, sending an
embassy, he offered both his sons to the king, promising that he would
willingly obey all his commands. Listening to these prayers, and moved
also by the fear of God, the king abstained from war; and keeping the
younger son Grimwald as a hostage, sent the elder son back to his
father. He, moreover, received eleven hostages from the rest of the
nation, and sent ambassadors to strengthen the covenant of the prince
and all the people of Benevento by oaths.” Thus had the Frankish king,
without striking a blow, extended his dominion to the southernmost
corner of Italy. It was, however, a precarious conquest; and the
princes of Benevento were almost to the end of Charles’s reign either
doubtful vassals or open enemies of the Frankish ruler.

Easter of 787 was spent by King Charles in Rome, and this visit,
like that of five years before was followed by a further development
of the contest between him and Duke Tassilo. Doubtless the hollow
reconciliation of 782 had been followed by mutual suspicion and
estrangement: and the Bavarian duke must have felt that, with the
Saxon rebellion now apparently quelled, his turn for subjugation
would come next. While the king was still in Rome, there appeared in
that city two Bavarian envoys, Arno Bishop of Salzburg, and Huneric
Abbot of Mond See, who besought the pope to mediate between Charles
and their master. The pope, as before, expressed his hearty goodwill
towards Tassilo, and an interview between king and envoys followed in
his presence. But when Charles called upon the bishop and the abbot
to state what guarantee their master had empowered them to give for
the fulfilment, this time, of his often violated promises, they could
only answer that they had no instructions on this head, being not
plenipotentiaries on Tassilo’s behalf, only messengers whose duty it
was to carry back to their master the propositions of the king and
pontiff. Apparently, then, the duke had reverted to that old position
of all but equality with the Frankish king which he took up twenty-four
years before at the time of the great _harisliz_, and the solemnly
plighted oaths sworn at Worms were to go for nothing. Hadrian was
not less indignant than Charles at this exhibition of fickleness and
bad faith, and appears to have visited his displeasure on the two
churchmen-ambassadors themselves, telling them that they and their
master were all liars together, and that they should all be visited by
the papal anathema unless Tassilo kept the oaths which he had sworn to
Charles and to Pippin. We have here one of the earliest instances of
that use of ecclesiastical censures to enforce political claims which
was so characteristic a feature of the Middle Ages.

The ambassadors returned to Bavaria empty-handed: and the king,
recrossing the Alps, went to rejoin his wife, the hard and haughty
Fastrada, at Worms. Probably her influence was not used to soften his
temper towards the rebellious duke. A general assembly was called,
to which the king rehearsed all the events of his Italian journey,
concluding with the story of the abortive negotiations with Tassilo.
By the advice probably of his nobles, one more embassy was sent to
claim from the Bavarian the fulfilment of his promises and to summon
him to the royal presence. On his refusal, Frankish invaders from
three different points entered the devoted duchy. Italian Pippin
from the South marched from Trient up the valley of the Adige and
over the water-shed of the Inn; Charles himself crossed the Lech and
entered Bavaria from the west by way of Augsburg. A little further
to the north, near Ingoldstadt, came an army of Austrasian Franks,
including not only Thuringians but even Saxons, so great was Charles’s
confidence in that pacification of the country which, as after events
showed, was then but half completed. Seeing himself thus surrounded,
and also knowing that many of his own subjects would side with the
invaders--for apparently to the ordinary Bavarian landowner the
prospect of a distant lord paramount at Aachen or Quierzy was more
acceptable than the reality of a present and stringent master on the
banks of the Danube--Tassilo gave up the game, presented himself at
Charles’s headquarters, handed over to him a stick, carved into some
resemblance of a man, as a symbol of the land for which he did homage,
and gave as a hostage his son Theodo, who for the last ten years had
been associated with him as ruler of the duchy. Hostages, as usual,
twelve in number, were given for Tassilo’s adherence to his freshly
made promises, and at the same time the people of the land were in some
way, the details of which are not disclosed, made parties to his oath
of fidelity to Charles.

It is not easy to account for the harsh proceedings of the next year
(788) after this apparent reconciliation of the vassal to his lord.
Possibly something had come to light which justified Charles in the
belief that Tassilo would never honestly accept the position of vassal
from which he had so often endeavored to escape. An assembly was
convened at Ingelheim, probably in the month of June. Tassilo, now
helpless and unarmed, was summoned to appear before it, and was there
accused, on the evidence of some of his own subjects who were loyal to
Charles, of having opened negotiations with the barbarous Avars on the
east after his last submission to the Frankish king. Liutberga, his
Lombard queen, mindful of the old feud and of her father’s wrongs, was
said to have been the ceaseless preacher of revenge. Even against the
life of Charles, Tassilo was accused of having conspired, and when men
spoke to him of the danger in which he thus placed his hostage-son,
he is said to have answered: “Had I ten sons I would lose them all in
this cause, since it were better for me to die than to live a vassal
on such ignominious terms as I have sworn to.” Then the old accusation
of the _harisliz_ of 763 was brought up against him, and on this and
other charges he was found guilty by the assembled nobles, Franks, and
Bavarians, Lombards and Saxons, assembled from all parts of Charles’s
realm, and by their united voice was adjudged worthy of death. This
sentence, however, was commuted by “the most pious Charles, moved
by compassion and the love of God and because he was his kinsman:
and he obtained from his own servants and the servants of God [the
nobles secular and religious] this favor, that he should not die. Then
Tassilo, being asked by the most clement king what he wished, begged
that he might have leave to assume the tonsure and enter a monastery,
there to do penance for so many sins, that he might save his soul.
Similarly his son Theodo was sentenced, tonsured, and sent into a
monastery, and the few Bavarians who chose to remain in opposition to
King Charles were banished.”

According to one authority, Tassilo, while accepting tranquilly the
decree which consigned him for the rest of his days to the monotonous
seclusion of a convent, begged that his long hair, the symbol of his
Frankish or even Merovingian descent, might not be shorn off in public,
in the sight of his Frankish compeers, his Bavarian followers and
companions in arms, and this favor was granted him by the clemency
of the king. He was sent at once to the monastery of St. Goar on the
Rhine, and afterwards to the safer seclusion of Jumièges in Normandy.
His sons and his daughters were also persuaded or compelled to enter
various convents: his wife, scion of that unhappy race which seemed
doomed to disaster in all its members, was either banished or like
the rest of her family accepted the sentence of seclusion in the
cloister. Once more does Tassilo appear upon the stage of history,
when in the year 794 he was brought to the assembly at Frankfort (an
assembly convened ostensibly for a purely theological purpose) and
there “made his peace with the lord the king, renouncing all the power
which he had once held in Bavaria and handing it over to the king.”
It is suggested that the law had been somewhat strained by Tassilo’s
condemnation in the assembly at Ingelheim and that this formal and
professedly voluntary surrender of his rights was deemed necessary to
perfect Charles’s title as ruler of Bavaria. After this event Tassilo
vanishes from the scene, the year and place of his death being alike
unrecorded by authentic history.

For the later history of Europe and especially of Germany, the
deposition of Tassilo and the vindication of the imperilled Frankish
supremacy over Bavaria were perhaps even more important than the
perpetually recurring Saxon campaigns which fill so large a space in
Charles’s annals. Sooner or later Saxon-land was almost certain to
become Christian and civilized, and so to enter the Frankish orbit:
but at Charles’s accession there seemed to be a great probability that
Bavaria would turn her _de facto_ independence into separation _de
jure_ from the Frankish realm. This would have caused a separation of
the Germany of the future into two independent states, a kingdom of the
North and a kingdom of the South, which, as we know, never actually
took place in the Middle Ages.

With one more conspiracy, this time of a domestic character, the tale
of treason is ended. In the year 792 (the year in which Charles had
an Avar war and a Saxon rebellion on his hands at once, and made his
abortive attempt to join the Danube and the Rhine by a canal),[45]
there was added to all his other cares a rebellion headed by one of his
own flesh and blood. His eldest son Pippin was apparently not born in
wedlock, though his mother Himiltrud, after her son’s birth, probably
became Charles’s lawfully wedded wife. This defect of legitimacy would
not have been an insuperable bar to succession in a house which derived
its chief glories from the illegitimate Charles Martel; but there was
another and more fatal circumstance in the case of Charles’s firstborn.
Though beautiful in face he was deformed, probably dwarfish in figure,
an unsuitable person therefore to be presented to the assembled
Frankish warriors as heir to his father’s kingdom. Thus Pippin, though
to a certain extent maintaining his princely rank, and named next to
his father in the litanies of the Church, seems to have been silently
edged out from all hope of succeeding to any portion of that father’s
power. Charles, the eldest son of Hildegard, was apparently recognized
as principal heir. Carloman and Louis were taken to Rome in their
infancy and anointed Kings of Italy and Aquitaine, while Pippin was
left unnoticed. Perhaps even the imposition of the ancestral name of
Pippin on the child Carloman was meant as a hint to his elder namesake
that he would never be saluted as Pippin, King of the Franks.

This exclusion doubtless galled the firstborn; and to these wrongs of
his, real or imaginary, appear to have been added some inflicted on him
and on his friends and followers by the unloved Fastrada. Thus, while
most of the other chroniclers can see in the conspiracy of Pippin only
the unholy attempt of a bastard, like another Abimelech, to seize the
royal power at the cost of the lives of all his legitimate brethren,
the honest Einhard in the following passage of his annals puts a
different color on the enterprise.

“When the king was spending his summer at Ratisbon, a conspiracy
was made against him by his eldest son, named Pippin, and certain
Franks who declared that they could not bear the cruelty of the queen
Fastrada, and therefore conspired for the death of the king. And when
this was detected by means of Fardulf the Lombard, he, to reward him
for his loyalty, was presented with the monastery of St. Dionysius [St.
Denis], but the authors of the conspiracy, as being guilty of treason,
were partly slain by the sword and partly hung from gallows, and so
with their lives paid forfeit for the meditation of such a crime.”[46]

Pippin’s own life was spared, but his head was shorn, and he was
sent “to serve God in a monastery.” The place of his confinement was
Prum in the Moselle country, and there apparently he remained till
his death, which happened in 811. So ended the last and probably the
most dangerous of the conspiracies against King Charles’s life and



Though the greater part of his life was passed in war, and though he
was undoubtedly a man of great personal courage, Charlemagne cannot be
considered a great military commander. We have the testimony of Einhard
that in the whole long Saxon war he himself was personally engaged
in only two pitched battles, and most of his campaigns seem to have
consisted rather of military promenades, against brave but ill-armed
foes, than of hard-fought battles in which the genius and courage of
the king at a critical moment secured victory to his troops. But if not
a great captain, he was a great and successful planner of campaigns;
not so much a Hannibal or a Napoleon as an “organizer of victory” like

It is remarkable that in the most famous battle which he fought,
neither his strategy nor his tactics were successful. The Spanish
campaign of 778 was a failure, and ended with an event of no great
importance in itself, but of imperishable memory in song, the
disastrous day of Roncesvalles.

To understand the cause of this expedition, so remote from the usual
orbit of the Frankish king, we must glance for a moment at the
condition of the Mohammedan world, and must leave the marshes and
forests of Saxon-land for the desert-girdled gardens of the oldest of
cities, Damascus. For a hundred years the Ommayad caliphs in a long
line, consisting of Moawiyah and thirteen successors, had governed
the vast regions which owned the faith of Mohammed, with absolute
sway. The caliph, as the successor of the Prophet, wielded a power
religious as well as military; he was at once the pope and the emperor
of the Saracen world. It was in the name of the Ommayad caliph and by
his lieutenants that Spain was conquered; in his name that Gaul was
invaded by those swarming myriads whom Charles Martel with difficulty
repulsed on the great day of Poitiers. But now at last in the year 750,
eighteen years before the accession of Charlemagne, there had come a
change; the unity of Islamism was broken and the divisions that thus
crept in, even more than the sword of Charles Martel, saved Europe from
Moslem domination. The Ommayad caliphs in the luxurious delights of
Damascus had forgotten some of the stern simplicity of their earlier
predecessors. A new and more austere claimant to their religious throne
presented himself in the person of Abul Abbas, who was descended from
an uncle of the Prophet; and the old feud between the two tribes of the
Koreish[48] and the Haschimites flared up into fierce civil war, the
reigning Ommayads belonging to the former, and the revolting Abbasides
to the latter class. In the great battle of Mosul (750), the Abbasides
gained the upper hand; Merwan the last Ommayad caliph fled to Egypt,
where he was slain, and a bloody massacre of eighty Ommayads at a
banquet completed the ruin of the family.

From this ruin of a princely race one only escaped. The young
Abderrahman son of Merwan fled from Syria, and after many adventures
and many narrow escapes, ever journeying westward, reached the tents
of a tribe of Bedouins in Morocco with whom he claimed kinship through
his mother, and who gladly granted him the asylum which he needed.
While he was sharing their hospitality, there came an embassy from some
of the chief Mussulmans of Spain to offer him supreme power in that
country. The various _emirs_ and _walis_ who had been misgoverning that
unhappy land for forty years since the Moorish conquest, had given it
neither prosperity nor peace; probably also there was a feeling that
they had failed as champions of Islamism against Christianity. At any
rate there was a strong desire to try what unity and concentration
under a resident and independent sovereign would accomplish, and for
this purpose to take advantage of the presence of a high-spirited and
courageous youth, the descendant of a long line of sovereigns. The
invitation was gladly accepted. Abderrahman crossed over into Spain
(755), won victory after victory over the representatives of his
Abbaside foe, the chief of whom was named Yussuf-el-Fekri, and (though
he did not himself assume the title of caliph), virtually founded the
Caliphate of Cordova which, for nearly three centuries, often with
brilliant success, guided the destinies of Mohammedan Spain.

But Abderrahman, though deservedly one of the favorite heroes of
Saracen literature, did not win supreme power in Spain without a hard
struggle, and even after he had conquered there was many a fresh
outbreak of opposition to his rule. Though Yussuf-el-Fekri fell
in battle (759), his sons, continually rebelling and continually
pardoned by the magnanimous Abderrahman, filled the next twenty years
with turmoil. It was one of these sons and a son-in-law of Yussuf
who, together with a certain Ibn-el-Arabi (perhaps the governor of
Barcelona), sought out Charles while he was holding his _placitum_
at distant Paderborn, and begged his assistance against Abderrahman,
promising that they would procure the surrender of several cities in
Spain if he appeared in arms at their gates.

The offer came during one of those deceptive lulls in the Saxon war,
when Charles was flattered with the hope that his work was completed.
It was from this very assembly that Widukind was conspicuously absent,
but Charles knew not as yet how much that absence imported. The offer
was a tempting one and harmonized with Charles’s general policy.
Abderrahman was the enemy of the Abbaside caliph, and the Abbasides
were Charles’s friends. There was, too, a prospect of continuing
the work which his father had so prosperously begun when he won back
Narbonne from the infidels. As he listened, the three Mussulmans
enlarged on the brilliant prospect before him, and very probably
held out hopes of the conquest of the whole peninsula. The question
of the rival faiths, though of course it must have been present to
Charles’s mind, does not seem to have been the determining motive to
this expedition as it was to the Saxon war. There is no foundation
for the suggestion of some later chroniclers that he was moved to
this enterprise by pity for the groans of the Spanish Christians
under Saracen oppression. In fact, the situation of the Christians
under Abderrahman seems to have been a very tolerable one: and as we
shall see, the valiant little kingdom of the Asturias, which from its
mountain stronghold was so gallantly maintaining the cause of Christian
freedom against the Moors, got small help at this time from its mighty

Whatever the cause, Charles determined to accept the invitation to
interfere in the affairs of the Spanish peninsula. At Easter (778)
he was at Chasseneuil, in Aquitaine, about forty miles south of
his grandfather’s battle-field at Poitiers. He opened his campaign
early: of course the warmer climate of Spain justified much earlier
operations than were possible in the late spring of undrained
Saxon-land. Having spent the winter in preparations he had a large
army at his disposal, and dividing it according to his usual custom,
he ordered the Austrasian part of it to cross the Eastern Pyrenees. In
this division of the army there were not only, as we might naturally
expect, men of Septimania, of Provence and Burgundy, but some of
Charles’s new Lombard subjects from Italy: and even a contingent sent
by the Bavarian Tassilo. Charles himself, with the western portion of
his army, marched probably by the old Roman road, passing from St. Jean
de la Port over a crest of the Pyrenees 5000 feet high, into that which
has since become the kingdom of Navarre. The highest point of this
road, the “Summus Pyreneus” of the Roman road books, looked down on the
wild and narrow defile of Roncesvalles.

It had been ordered that the two sections of the army should meet at
Cæsar-Augusta, now Saragossa, on the Ebro. Both sections appear to have
crossed the Pyrenees without difficulty, and Charles, descending into
Navarre, laid siege to Pampelona and took it apparently with little
difficulty. The reader learns with some surprise that Pampelona had
previously belonged to the little Christian kingdom of the Asturias,
against whom Charles must therefore have now been waging war.

And this was really the only warlike deed in the whole campaign:
for all the rest of the operations recorded by the chroniclers (who
evidently have something to conceal in this part of their story) cannot
be dignified by the name of war. Charles is said to have crossed the
Ebro by a ford, to have approached, perhaps entered, Saragossa, to have
received the hostages whom Ibn-el-Arabi and another Saracen chief whom
the chronicler calls Abuthaur (probably Abu Taker) brought to him.
No doubt the hostages represented the surrender of a certain number
of cities in the corner of Spain between the Ebro and the Pyrenees,
but how many we have no means of deciding. In the month of August
Charles set out on his return march, taking Ibn-el-Arabi with him in
chains. Evidently the expedition had been a comparative failure: the
large promises of Ibn-el-Arabi had not been fulfilled, and Charles,
resentful, perhaps suspecting treachery, determined not to suffer the
evil counsellor to be at large.

The cause of the failure was probably in part to be found in the
premature rising of Abderrahman-ibn-Habib, son-in-law of Yussuf,
who, before Charles entered Spain, had landed in Murcia with an army
of Berbers, and had raised the standard of the Abbaside caliphs
against his namesake Abderrahman-ben-Merwan. The utter failure of this
expedition probably made it hopeless for Charles to proceed beyond the

Returning to Pampelona Charles levelled the walls of that city to the
ground, to prevent its rebelling against him, and then began his march
across the Pyrenees. On the highest point of the pass an ambush had
been planted by the Wascones whose operations were concealed by the
dense forests growing there. When the baggage-train and rear-guard came
in sight they dashed down upon them. The surprise and the possession of
the higher ground fully compensated for the mountaineers’ inferiority
in arms and discipline; in fact, in such an encounter the heavier armor
of the Franks was a positive disadvantage. By the confession of the
biographer of Charlemagne at least the whole of the rear-guard were cut
to pieces, and with them fell many of the nobles of Charles’s court,
notably Eggihard the seneschal, Anselm the count of the palace; and
Hruodland the governor of the Breton March. As night soon fell and the
nimble invaders dispersed rapidly to their homes and hiding-places,
revenge was impossible, and Charles returned to Chasseneuil with
clouded brow, all his satisfaction at his successes in Spain--such as
they were--being marred by this dishonor to his arms and by the loss
of so many of his friends.

The date of this disaster is fixed by the epitaph of the seneschal
Eggihard to the 18th of August 778. The place, by undeviating
tradition, has been identified with the wild gorge of Roncesvalles.
It is indeed somewhat difficult to understand how even the main body
of the Frankish army could have escaped, if the foes were on the very
summit of the pass, and if the skirmish took place at Roncesvalles on
the Spanish side of the mountain: but this may be accounted for by the
distance at which the baggage-train and the rear-guard lagged behind
the van.

It was at this same point of the Pyrenean ridge and through this same
defile of Roncesvalles that Soult’s gallant soldiers forced their way
in 1813, when the French marshal made his brilliant, but unsuccessful,
attempt to turn Wellington’s position and raise the siege of Pampelona.

But who were these Wascones, and what was their quarrel with Charles?
Certainly they were not Saracens or Mussulmans as the minstrels of
later centuries supposed. A part of the mysterious Basque race, which
has throughout the historic period occupied the high upland valleys
on either side of the Western Pyrenees, and has given its name to
Biscay in Spain and to Gascony in France, these mountaineers represent
probably the oldest population of Europe of which any traces now
remain. Their language, bearing no relation to any Aryan or Semitic
tongue, is to this day one of the great unsolved enigmas of philology.
As has been said, they were certainly not Mussulmans, and they may have
professed and called themselves Christians, but it is not necessary
to seek for any deep political combination, Christian or Mohammedan,
to account for their attack on Charles’s baggage-train. The men
whose ancestors had been driven, perhaps two thousand years before,
into those mountains by the Celts, were determined, and had been
determined ever since, to keep their last asylum free from the foot
of the invader. Roman and Goth had vainly tried to subdue them, and
now this Frankish interloper should have a lesson that should prevent
his paying too frequent visits to their mountains. Theirs was a savage
love, not merely of independence but of absolute isolation: that, and
the attractions of the Frankish baggage-train seem quite sufficient to
account for the disaster of Roncesvalles.

Among the nobles who fell was, as has been said, Hruodland, governor
of the Breton March. This is none other than the far-famed Roland
of mediæval romance. The minstrels and _trouveurs_ of much later
centuries have invented for him a relationship to Charlemagne, have
mated him with Oliver, and have said a thousand beautiful things
concerning his life and his heroic death; but, of all this, authentic
history knows nothing. And yet authentic history cannot afford
altogether to ignore even the Roland of romance, since it was--

    De L’Allemaigne et de Rollant
    Et d’Olivier et de Vassaux
    Qui morurent en Rainschevaux,

that Norman Taillefer sang as he spurred his horse and tossed his sword
aloft before the battle of Hastings.[49] Even the mythical Roland had
become, three centuries after the rout of Roncesvalles, a great name
to conjure with.

As for Charles’s attempt to annex territory to his kingdom south of the
Pyrenees, it had to be abandoned for a time. The Saxon revolt under
Widukind broke out, more stubborn and difficult to quell than ever.
For the next eight years (778–785) Charles was too much occupied with
the hard reality of strife in the marshes and forests of Saxon-land to
have leisure for pursuing a visionary sovereignty on the banks of the
Ebro. Then came the trouble with Tassilo, and, immediately following
upon it, those wars with the Avars which will be described in the next
chapter. But though during this period most or all of the cities in
Spain which had accepted Charles as their lord were probably won back
by Abderrahman, the hope of reconquering a Spanish kingdom was never
abandoned, and the execution of the scheme was committed to the King
of Aquitaine, or rather to his counsellors. For this King of Aquitaine
was Charles’s fourth son Louis, who with a twin brother had been born
in 778, while Charles himself was prosecuting the war in Spain. Born
in Aquitaine, this child--one day to be the gentle and much worried
Emperor, Louis the Pious--was, as we have seen, when only three years
old, anointed in Rome by the pope as king of his native land; and in
that land his boyhood and early manhood appear to have been spent.
During those years of immaturity the government was of course in the
hands of counsellors, who seem to have executed the commands of the
real ruler Charles with vigor and prudence.

In 788 Abderrahman died, and was succeeded by his youngest son
Hescham, a Mussulman pietist. The fierce, and for the time successful,
invasion of the Narbonese province which was made by Hescham’s general
Abd-el-Melec, was perhaps the cause which stirred Louis’s council
to commence a war of reprisals. In 796 the country of the Saracens
was ravaged by a Frankish army. In 797 Huesca was besieged, but in
vain. In 801 Barcelona, which had changed hands two or three times
between Christian and Mussulman, was subjected to a rigorous siege,
which lasted according to one account seven months, and according to
another two years. The city was at last forced to surrender, and Zaid,
its governor, who had in former years played fast and loose with the
Frankish alliance, was sent in chains to Charles’s court. Between 809
and 811 there were three attempts, the last a successful attempt,
to capture Tortosa, the strong city which commanded the mouth of
the Ebro. All these conquests seem to have been retained during the
lifetime of Charles. What was perhaps more important, a firm alliance
was formed with the young Alfonso the Chaste, who, during his fifty
years’ reign (791–842) extended the frontiers and consolidated the
strength of the Christian kingdom of the Asturias. This alliance, so
obviously for the interest of both parties, cannot have existed in
the year of Roncesvalles: but now we are told that “there came to the
court of Charles an ambassador of Hadefonsus, King of Gallicia and the
Asturias, presenting a tent of wonderful beauty,” and that “Charles so
bound Hadefonsus to him as an ally that the latter whenever he sent him
letters or ambassadors would never allow himself to be called anything
else than ‘King Charles’s own man.’”

At first sight the result of these wars beyond the Pyrenees, and the
consequent foundation of the Spanish March, which stretched from those
mountains to the Ebro, may seem unimportant, as we know that the
Frankish kings made no permanent acquisition of territory in Spain. But
on the other hand, by the diversion which they caused, they perhaps
prevented the Saracen rulers of Spain from crushing the infant kingdom
of the Asturias: and the counts of Barcelona, whom they settled in the
Spanish March, after having gradually relinquished the position of
vassals to the French kings, became independent Christian sovereigns,
and eventually acquired by marriage the rich heritage of the kingdom of



It is a remarkable ethnological fact, and one for which there does
not seem any obvious explanation, that, almost ever since the great
barbarian migrations of the fourth century, the country between the
Danube and the Carpathian mountains has been occupied by a people
belonging to that which, for want of a better word, we call the
Turanian stock; and yet that this Turanian deposit should not have
been one and the same throughout, but was the result of three distinct
migrations. In the fourth century the great non-Aryan nation on the
Middle Danube was the Huns; from the tenth century to the present day
it has been that noble nation whom their Sclavonic neighbors have named
Hungarians, but who call themselves Magyars; between 567 and 800, it
was the savage and somewhat uninteresting people of the Avars.[51]
The power of the Avars was at its height in the reign of the emperor
Heraclius (626) when they formed the siege of Constantinople, and,
joining hands with the Persians, had well-nigh accomplished the ruin of
the eastern Empire. Soon after this came the revolt of the Bulgarians
from the Avar sway, and from that time onward, the power of the Avars
steadily declined, but though no longer formidable to Constantinople
they were still securely quartered in the vast plains of Hungary, and
were most unwelcome neighbors to their old allies the Lombards of
Italy. Twice in the course of the seventh century had they descended
upon the duchy of Friuli, and each time their invasions had been marked
by that character of destruction and purposeless brutality which has
ever been the especial note of the Tartar conqueror.

If the Avars were at all like their Hunnish kinsmen (which is not
improbable) they were small of stature, and swarthy in color. Their
long locks hanging down behind, in a kind of woven pigtails, are
specially noticed by the Frankish poets. They were essentially a
predatory nation, and (again arguing from the analogy of the Huns) we
may presume that they were a nation of horsemen, dashing hither and
thither on their nimble and hardy ponies, and vanishing ere the heavy
squadrons of the Greeks or the Lombards could come up with them. They
had one chief ruler, who was called the _chagan_ of the Avars--the same
title with which we are familiar as the Tartar khan--and under him, in
a degree of subordination which it would be hopeless now to determine,
were lieutenants or sub-kings, who bore the title of _tudun_. We hear
also of the _jugur_, apparently not a proper name, but the title of a
chief who contests the supremacy with the _chagan_. _Tarchan_ seems to
be a collective word for the Avar nobility.

The capital of the Avars consisted of a series of earthworks, which
were known (probably to their German neighbors, not to themselves)
by the collective name of the _Hring_. Of this Hring an interesting
description is given by the monk of St. Gall,[52] who wrote some ninety
years after its destruction, but who professes to tell the story as he
heard it in his boyhood from an old soldier named Adalbert, who had
served in the Avar campaigns. With a charming touch of nature, the
old monk describes how the veteran used to prose on about his warlike
experiences, and how he as a boy resisted, and often escaped from the
tedious tale, but yet was in the end forced to listen and to learn.

He says: “The land of the Huns or [Avars] as Adalbert used to tell me
was girdled with nine circles. Then said I, who had never seen any
circles [circular fences] except those made of osiers, “What sort of
marvel was that, sir?” and he answered, “It was fortified with nine
_hegin_.” I, who had never seen any hedges except those with which the
crops are guarded, asked him some more questions, and he said, “One
circle was as wide as the distance from Zurich to Constance [thirty
miles]: it was made of stems of oak, beech, or fir, twenty feet high
and twenty feet broad. All the hollow part [between the walls] was
filled either with very hard stones, or with most tenacious chalk,
and then the top of the structure was covered with strong turfs. In
between the turfs were planted shrubs which were pruned and lopped, so
as to make them shoot forth boughs and leaves. Between one mound and
another the villages and farms were placed, always within earshot of
one another; and opposite to them the walls (in themselves impregnable)
were pierced by narrow gateways, through which the inhabitants, both
those who lived in the inner circle and those who were in the outer
ring, used to sally forth for the sake of plunder. From the second
circle, which was constructed like the first, there was a distance of
twenty Teutonic or forty Italian miles to the third, and so on to the
ninth, though [of course], each successive circle was smaller than the
one before it. And from circle to circle the farms and dwellings were
so arranged on all sides, that an alarm could be given by sound of the
trumpet from each circle to its neighbor.”

It is easy to see that this description cannot be scientifically
accurate (the distance between the “rings” especially must be greatly
over-stated): but still, this sketch of the camp-city of a robber
horde, entrenched in the plains of Hungary in order to make war on the
growing civilization of the west, is surely worthy of our attention,
and helps us to understand what were the difficulties of Charles and
his subject princes in breaking the power of this barbarous race.

It will be remembered that one of the grounds of accusation against the
insubordinate Duke of Bavaria was, that he had been intriguing with the
Avars against his lord. It is probable that, sooner or later, when he
found Charles bent on his destruction, Tassilo did make overtures of
some kind for a league of mutual defence with his formidable eastern
neighbors. Certain it is that they came, though too late to help him,
with two armies against the Franks (788). One army went southward
against the duchy of Friuli, the other westward against Bavaria. Both
were defeated, the latter at Ips on the Danube (about forty miles south
of Linz), having only just touched the frontier of Bavaria. Enraged
at meeting such a hostile reception from the Bavarians whom, as they
said, they came to help, they made another invasion later in the same
year; but the two brave _missi_ of Charles, Grahamann and Audacer, who
had repelled the previous invasion now again won a signal victory.
Great was the slaughter on the field, and multitudes of the flying
Avars were whelmed in the waters of the Danube.

It is probable that Charles was already revolving in his mind plans
for the entire subjugation of the barbarous Avar nationality, but he
knew that such an enterprise would require long preparations, and
meanwhile events were again occurring on the Elbe which required his
immediate attention. The Saxons, it is true, were still apparently
submissive to the yoke--we are now in that seven years’ peace (785–792)
which followed the submission of Widukind--but there was a fierce and
warlike Sclavonic tribe called by themselves Welatabi, but by the
Franks Wiltzi, who dwelt beyond the Elbe in the country which has since
been named Pomerania, and these people, having by the subjugation
of the Saxons become next-door neighbors to the Frankish State, was
displaying those qualities which generally bring the less civilized
race into collision with the more civilized, when a narrow boundary
divides them. As the chronicler puts it: “This people was ever hostile
to the Franks, and was wont to pursue with their hatred, to oppress
and harass in war all their neighbors who were either subject to the
Franks or in league with them. Whose insolence the king thought he
ought no longer to put up with, and he therefore determined to attack
them in war, and, having collected a large army, he crossed the
Danube[53] at Cologne” (789). He marched through Saxon-land, crossed
the Elbe by two bridges, led his army (in whose ranks fought many of
the lately subdued Saxons), into the hostile territory, and, according
to the usual formula, laid everything waste with fire and sword. The
Wiltzi, though a warlike people, lost heart, and when the oldest and
most powerful of their chiefs, a man named Dragawit, came in and made
his submission to Charles, all the others followed his example. There
were the usual oaths of vassalage, surrender of hostages, perhaps a
promise of tribute: but although, from the way in which it is mentioned
by Charles’s biographer it is evident that this campaign against the
Wiltzi was an arduous one, it cannot be said to have produced any
enduring results. Speaking generally, the Elbe remained the boundary of
the Frankish kingdom. The various Sclavonic tribes on the other side
of it were, to borrow a term from modern diplomacy, “in the Frankish
sphere of influence,” but they were not obedient citizens of the
Frankish state.

We return to the affairs of the Avars. The year 790 was a quiet one, so
much so that Charles, now verging on his fiftieth year, and “fearing
to grow torpid through lack of exercise,” sailed up the Main and the
Franconian Saale to his palace of Königshofen by the banks of the
latter river, and returned in like manner to Worms. But even in this
year there were discussions and altercations concerning boundaries
with the ambassadors of the Avars. Charles was evidently making his
preparations and accumulating materials for his case against the doomed

Next year, 791, the storm burst, and Charles made his great, his only
personally commanded expedition, into Avar-land. At a council of
Franks, Saxons, and Frisians held at Ratisbon, it was decided that “on
account of the great and intolerable malice which the Avars had shown
towards the Holy Church and the Christian people, and the impossibility
of obtaining justice at their hands by means of the royal messengers,
a hostile expedition should march against them.” The whole army
marched to the river Enns, the boundary of Avar-land, and there for
three days sang litanies and witnessed solemn masses imploring God
“for the safety of the army, the help of our Lord Jesus Christ, and
victory and vengeance against the Avars.” Charles then, according to
his usual custom, divided his army, marching himself along the south
bank of the Danube, and sending the Saxon and Frisian auxiliaries
with some Franks along the northern bank. The Avars had erected two
strongholds, one on each side of the river, at a little distance above
the modern city of Vienna: but they were struck with panic fear when
they saw the two columns marching on either side of the river, and the
ships (laden probably with provisions) sailing majestically between
them. They abandoned their strongholds without striking a blow, “and
so, Christ leading on his own people, both armies entered the country
without sustaining any loss.” It was, in fact, a military promenade.
Charles marched through the country, ravaging as he went, as far as the
river Raab, and then, “after traversing and laying waste a great part
of Pannonia, carried back his army safe and sound into Bavaria. This
expedition was made without inconvenience of any kind, save that in
that part of the army which the king commanded, so great a pestilence
arose among the horses that scarcely the tenth part out of so many
thousands of horses is said to have remained alive.” The king returned
to Ratisbon, which he evidently intended now to make his headquarters
till the end of the Avar war, and kept his Christmas there.

Next year, however (792), broke out the conspiracy of Pippin the
Hunchback, and this probably occupied so much of Charles’s attention
as to make it impossible to undertake an expedition into Avar-land. He
remained, however, during the whole year in Bavaria, and ordered the
construction of a bridge of boats which he might in the next campaign
throw across the Danube, and so at any moment unite the two armies
marching along the opposite banks of the river.

In 793 came the terrible tidings of the destruction of Theodoric’s
army by the banks of the Weser, and the rekindling of the Saxon war,
deadlier and fiercer than ever. The abortive attempt to canalize the
feeders of the Danube and the Rhine, and so unite those two great
arteries of his kingdom, occupied Charles all the summer of that year.
On its failure he recognized that the war against the Avars must be
suspended for a season, at any rate as far as his personal share in it
was concerned. He set his face northward and made Frankfurt, Aachen,
and the towns of Saxon-land itself, his abiding places during the six
years that followed.

But it seems that the great campaign of 791 had been even more
successful than it was thought to be at the time. There appear to have
been jealousies and rivalries in the Avar kingdom which, as soon as the
restraint of fear was removed, as soon as it was seen that the _chagan_
was not invincible, broke forth into open dissension and completed the
wreck of the barbarous state. In the summer of 795, while Charles,
keenly intent on the Saxon war, was encamped by the Elbe in a place
near to the present site of Lüneburg, there came to him messengers
from a _tudun_ of the Avars announcing his willingness to be baptized
and to hand over his people and land to the Frankish king. And in fact
next year this _tudun_ came according to his promise to Aachen, and
there made his formal submission to Charles. He and his followers were
baptized and returned home enriched by royal gifts.

But meanwhile there had been more evident tokens of the utter collapse
of the Avar kingdom. The conduct of the war after Charles’s departure
had apparently been left to the Duke of Friuli, who inherited the
hatred of two centuries of border wars between his duchy and the Avars.
The duke now ruling was a Frank named Eric, a man distinguished in
the wars, and who might truly be called a Paladin of Charles’s court,
but also a generous benefactor of the poor, a friend of the Church,
a man to whom Paulinus, Bishop of Aquileia, addressed a treatise on
practical religion (perhaps something like Jeremy Taylor’s treatise on
_Holy Living_), evidently with the assurance that it would meet with
a hearty welcome from his friend. This devout and valiant warrior, in
the late autumn of 795, invaded Avar-land, penetrated to the far-famed
_Hring_, pierced through all its seven circles, and made himself master
of the immense hoard which the _chagans_ had been piling up there for
two centuries. It was no wonder that he found an enormous accumulation
of treasure, for, besides the results of the mere robber raids which
the predatory Avars had made on all the surrounding peoples, during a
great part of the seventh century the eastern emperors had been forced
to pay 80,000 or 100,000 golden _solidi_[54] as a yearly tribute to
these terrible neighbors; nay, on one occasion the Emperor Heraclius
had to purchase peace from them at the price of 200,000 _solidi_. The
locking up of such a vast quantity of the only considerable European
currency in this barbarian stronghold must have sensibly affected
the economic condition of Europe, and it would not be surprising if
future inquirers should discover that there was a great rise of prices
as the consequence of its dispersion. Besides the hoarded _solidi_
there were gorgeous arms, silken tissues, and many other precious
things; and all these, according to one annalist, were sent piled on
fifteen great wagons, each drawn by four oxen, to Charles at Aachen.
The courtiers and nobles received generous presents from the king out
of the great hoard; the pope and his chief ecclesiastical friends were
not forgotten, but much also was laid up in the royal treasury and not
distributed till the king’s death.

In the next year (796) Charles’s son Pippin, King of Italy, followed up
Eric’s success; again visited the mysterious _Hring_ to complete the
work of spoliation, drove the Avars across the Theiss, and visited his
father at Aachen, bringing with him the plunder of the conquered people.

There were indeed some upflickerings of the apparently extinguished
fire. The baptized _tudun_ failed to keep his oath of fealty to
Charles, and had to be punished for his perfidy. In 799 Gerold,
the Frankish governor of Bavaria, brother of Charles’s late queen
Hildegard, fell in battle with the insurgent Avars. But this Turanian
people made not near so obstinate or long continued a resistance as
the Teutonic Saxons. In the year 805 we find the _capchan_, who was a
Christian, and bore the Greek name Theodore, humbly petitioning the
Emperor Charles that on account of the needs of his people a place
of habitation might be assigned to them between Sabaria and Carnuntum
(the country round the Neusiedler See). His request was granted, and
he returned to his people enriched by presents from the emperor, but
soon after died. The new _chagan_ soon after “sent one of his nobles
praying that he might have the ancient honor which the _chagan_ used
to have among the Avars. To which prayer the emperor gave his assent,
and ordered that the _chagan_ should have the supremacy over the whole
kingdom according to the old custom of the Avars.”

After this we practically hear no more of the Avars during the lifetime
of Charles. The power of the great Turanian kingdom was utterly broken,
and possibly, but for the invasion of the Hungarians, who appeared
upon the scene about seventy years after the death of Charlemagne,
there would have been a complete reconquest of the lands of the Middle
Danube by the Teutonic race. It must not be forgotten, however, that
here, as well as further north, Sclavonic tribes were hovering round
the eastern border of the Frankish kingdom, and, in fact, it was in a
war with one of these tribes, the Croatian inhabitants of Tarsatica, on
the Adriatic, that the valiant Eric of Friuli lost his life (709). The
news was brought to King Charles at Paderborn at the same time as the
tidings of the death of his brother-in-law, Gerold, and saddened him in
the midst of his Saxon victories. Bishop Paulinus wrote a Latin elegy
on the death of his friend, in which, like David in his lament over
Saul, he prayed that neither dew nor rain might fall on the Liburnian
shore, nor corn nor wine might gladden the hills on which the noble
Eric met his doom.



Now that we are approaching the most important event in the life of
Charlemagne, his assumption of the imperial title, it will be necessary
to glance at his relations with the line of sovereigns who alone up to
the year 800 wore the title of Emperor, the Cæsars of Constantinople.

It will be hardly needful here to repeat the warning given by many
recent historians against considering the State which was governed from
Constantinople, between 476 and 800, as anything else than the _Roman_
empire. As its centre of gravity was now on the Bosphorus instead of
being on the Tiber, and as its chief possessions were situated on the
east of the Gulf of Venice, or even on the east of the Archipelago, it
is difficult to avoid speaking of it as the eastern empire; but for all
the centuries between the fifth and the ninth we must remember that
this is not a strictly accurate expression. It was during all that
period “_the empire_,” “the dominion of the world,” nay, it was still
the “Roman republic,” though the man who sat in Julius Cæsar’s seat was
practically the uncontrolled despot of the Roman world.

And during all these intermediate centuries, though the empire might
be cut very short, by Frank and Goth and Saxon in the west, or by the
Saracen in the east, it would be safe to say that it never acquiesced
in its limitations. Pre-eminently the wonderful reconquests of Italy,
of Africa, of part of Spain, which were wrought in the sixth century by
the generals of Justinian, might well keep alive the hope that, after
the “little systems” of barbarian and infidel had “had their day,” the
true Divinely-appointed world-ruler would emerge from his temporary
eclipse and be again supreme all round the shores of the Mediterranean.

Doubtless, though the name “Roman” was still kept and still gloried in,
the empire was, with each succeeding century, becoming more thoroughly
Greek, or rather Graeco-Asiatic, in its character. From this point
of view it has been observed by a modern historian that the great
pestilence which raged in 747 (five years after the birth of Charles)
was an important factor in the transformation of the empire. “A vast
portion of the inhabitants of Byzantium, who maintained Roman character
and many Roman traditions amid all their half-Hellenic, half-Oriental
ways, had been carried off by the plague, and were replaced by pure
Greeks who had not inherited the effect of Roman influence. This was
an important step in the direction of becoming a Greek nationality, to
which goal the Roman empire was steadily tending” (Bury, _History of
the Later Roman Empire_, ii. 456).

But, notwithstanding this, the emperor at Byzantium never forgot that
he was Roman, but always looked upon Italy as his lawful, his almost
inalienable, possession. Gaul, Spain, Britain--it might be necessary to
abandon these to the barbarians--but Italy, but Rome, were rightfully
his, and all the shades of all the buried Cæsars would pass in angry
procession before the eyes of the degenerate successor who should be so
base as formally to abandon his right to hold them. This, or something
like this, we may believe to have been the secret underlying thought of
the Leos and the Constantines when they heard what the Frank was doing
in Italy.

Through the greater part of the eighth century the Iconoclastic
controversy was the dominating element in the politics of the empire.
We have already seen something of the career of the first great
image-breaker, Leo III. On his death, which happened in 740 (two
years before the birth of Charlemagne) he was succeeded by his son
Constantine V., as able a general, as strong a statesman, and as
determined an image-breaker as his father. He was a great enemy also
of the monks, and both they and the image-worshippers suffered at his
hands a persecution which (at any rate according to their account of
it) might seem to recall the days of Decius and Diocletian.

To the court of Constantine V. fled the young Adelchis, son of
Desiderius, on the downfall of the Lombard kingdom (774).[55] He was
well received by the emperor, who bestowed upon him the high-sounding
title of Patrician, thus making him, as far as rank in the empire
went, at least the equal of his conqueror, Charles. We have seen how
the combination of rebellious Italian dukes, independent princes, and
Byzantine generals, which was formed to restore Adelchis to the Lombard
throne, failed, owing to the death of Constantine V. (September 775),
and how Hrodgaud of Friuli was left alone to bear and to sink under the
vengeful might of the Frankish king.[56]

The Emperor Constantine V. was succeeded by his son Leo IV., surnamed
the Khazar, his mother having been a princess of that barbarous Tartar
tribe, who dwelt by the Sea of Azof and under the Caucasus. The strain
of barbarian blood did not bring strength to the character of the young
emperor. Leo IV., though an earnest image-breaker, was distinctly a
weaker man than his father, and during his short reign the cause of
Iconoclasm probably retrograded rather than advanced.

The five years during which Leo the Khazar was on the throne (775–780)
were years during which Charles gave little attention to the affairs of
Italy, having much to occupy him elsewhere, for these were the years of
Roncesvalles and of the fresh outbreak of the Saxon revolt. His friend
and clamorous dependant, however, Pope Hadrian, sent him frequent
cries for help. “The Greeks hateful to God” (that is the generals
and ministers of Leo the Khazar) were conspiring with the “most
unutterable” Lombards of Benevento to seduce the towns in Campania from
their allegiance to Charles and Hadrian. The island of Sicily, the one
secure stronghold of the Byzantine power during all these centuries,
was the focus of this strife, but in order to prosecute it more
successfully the patrician of Sicily took up his headquarters at Gaeta,
and from thence, in concert with the Duke of Naples, was pressing hard
upon those Campanian and Latian cities which kept their loyalty to the
pope. Moreover, when Hadrian wrote one of his most urgent letters, in
779, it was daily expected that “the son of the most unutterable and
long ago absolutely unmentionable king Desiderius” would land in Italy
with soldiers lent him by his Imperial ally and head the anti-Papal,
anti-Frankish coalition.

Still, however, Adelchis lingered in Constantinople and once again a
vacancy in the palace of the Cæsars saved Italy from a war. On the 8th
of September 780, Leo the Khazar died and was succeeded by his son
Constantine VI., a boy of nine years old, ruling not under the regency
of, but jointly with, his mother Irene. This woman was a daughter of
Athens and a secret worshipper of images, though in her father-in-law’s
lifetime she had solemnly sworn always to adhere to the party of the
Iconoclasts. Like Queen Athaliah of old, she was passionately fond of
power, both for its own sake and as helping her to maintain the cause
of idolatry against the religious reformers, and she was ready, in
defence of her darling schemes of ambition, to violate not only the
oath which she had given to her father-in-law--that was a light and
pardonable offence--but the deepest and holiest instincts of a woman’s
heart, the love of a mother for her only son.

For the first ten years of the joint reign (780–790) the lad,
Constantine VI., quietly submitted to his mother’s ascendency, and
only her will and her projects require the historian’s attention. The
Iconoclastic spirit was strong among the soldiers of her late husband’s
family, and she had to wait four years before she could openly take
steps towards the restoration of the worship of images; but she seems
at once to have ceased the attacks on Hadrian’s subject cities, and
to have assumed a more friendly attitude towards Charles, who was not
himself at this time interested in the Iconoclastic controversy, but
whose friendship was important if the Patriarchate of Constantinople
was to be reconciled with that of Rome. Thus it came to pass that in
781, during Charles’s second visit to Rome, there appeared in that city
two high nobles of the Byzantine Court, the _sacellarius_ Constans
and the _primicerius_ Mamalus, who brought proposals for a marriage
between the young emperor and Charles’s daughter Hrotrud, whom the
Greeks called Eruthro. It was only an alliance at some future day that
was talked of, for the prospective bridegroom was but ten years old,
and the Frankish princess was probably about eight. But the match was a
splendid one, there having been no previous instance of a matrimonial
alliance between the Roman Cæsars and the Frankish kings, and Charles
gladly accepted the offer. A tutor named Elissæus was sent to the
Frankish court to instruct the future empress in the Greek tongue, and
there was peace in Italy between the Franks and the generals of the

During these years of peace Irene was maturing her plans for
the restoration of image-worship. In 784, Paul the Patriarch
of Constantinople resigned his great office and became a monk,
acknowledging to all the world that his conscience was troubled by the
isolation of Constantinople from all the other Patriarchates on the
ground of Iconoclasm. Nothing could have suited Irene’s plans better
than this resignation. Her secretary Tarasius, though a layman, was
made patriarch in the room of Paul, evidently on the understanding that
images were to be restored. In August, 785, an imperial letter from
Constantine and Irene was addressed to Pope Hadrian begging him to
fix a time for the convocation of a general council at Constantinople
to settle the question of Iconoclasm. The pope of course gladly
consented, though he took advantage of the re-opened intercourse
with Constantinople to demand the restoration of the “patrimonies”
(probably in Sicily) which had been taken away from St. Peter’s see
by the first Iconoclastic emperor: and though he also held up to the
Byzantine rulers the admirable example of Charles, “King of the Franks
and Lombards, and patrician of Rome, who had in all things obeyed the
admonitions of the pope his spiritual father, had subdued to himself
the barbarous nations of the west, and had given back to the church
of St. Peter many estates, provinces, and towns, of which it had been
despoiled by the faithless Lombards.”

The general council was opened at Constantinople in August, 786, but
failed of its purpose. The Iconoclastic spirit was still too strong
among the soldiers who were quartered in Constantinople, old comrades
of Leo III. and his son. The church was invaded by them, and the
image-worshipping bishops departed in fear. Next year, however, care
having been taken to dispose of the Iconoclastic troops elsewhere, a
general council was held at Nicæa (24th September to 23d October, 787),
and there the _cultus_ of images was re-established in full glory, only
with one of those distinctions dear to theologians which defined “that
it was right to salute and grovel in adoration before the holy images,
but not to give them that peculiar worship which is due to God alone.”

Thus, then, the great cause of ecclesiastical contention was removed,
and we might expect that the joyful event would be celebrated by the
marriage of the young affianced pair, Constantine and Hrotrud, now
aged sixteen and fourteen respectively. On the contrary, this was the
very year in which, after mysterious embassies backwards and forwards
between the two Courts, the marriage treaty was broken off and the
relations became more openly hostile than ever; but curiously enough
(as is not unfrequently the case in such affairs) there is a conflict
of testimony as to which side had the credit or discredit of breaking
off the match. The Frankish annalists say or hint that Charles refused
his daughter to the young Emperor, who was much angered by the refusal.
A Byzantine historian says that “Irene broke off the treaty with
the Franks and sent the Captain of the Guard to fetch a damsel from
Armenia named Mary whom she married to her son the Emperor Constantine,
he being much grieved thereat, and not liking his bride because his
inclination was towards the daughter of Charles, King of the Franks, to
whom he had been precontracted.”

It is hopeless with our scanty materials to discover the reason of
this mysterious rupture between the Courts. One of the most careful
of the German writers who have treated of this period attributes it
entirely to Charles’s invasion of Benevento and reduction of its prince
Arichis to vassalage, which, as has been already related, occurred in
the year 786. This, he considers, was a breach of the tacit agreement
to maintain the Italian _status quo ante_ entered into in 781, and
was resented accordingly. Others have seen in it a stroke of policy
on the part of Irene, who was already becoming jealous of her son’s
share in the Imperial authority, and feared to see him provided with a
too powerful father-in-law. If it be permitted to hazard yet another
conjecture, where all is conjectural, I would point out that in the
interval between 781 and 787, Hildegard, the mother of Hrotrud, had
died, and Charles had married another wife, the haughty and unpopular
Fastrada. Possibly that proud and jealous woman resented the idea of
seeing her little step-daughter raised higher than herself by her
exaltation to the throne of the Cæsars, and may have used her influence
with her husband to entangle still further the already ravelled hank of
the negotiations with Constantinople, and at last in disgust to break
off the match altogether? The whole story is a remarkable illustration
of the fact, so clearly shown in the negotiations for the Spanish
marriage of Charles I. when Prince of Wales, that a marriage treaty,
if not very carefully conducted, is quite as likely to embroil two
sovereigns as to unite them.[57]

One curious, though not immediate, result of the rapidly increasing
estrangement between Franks and Greeks was that in the great synod
which Charles held at Frankfurt in 794 for the condemnation of the
“Adoptian heresy,”[58] Charles induced his bishops to pass a severe
condemnation of “the synod held a few years before under Irene and her
son which called itself the Seventh Ecumenical Council, but which was
neither the seventh nor ecumenical, but was rejected by all present at
Frankfurt as absolutely superfluous.” At the same time it was declared
by the assembled bishops that neither worship nor adoration was to be
paid to the images of the saints. Thus was Charles, the great patron
and defender of the papacy, actually brought into controversy with the
pope on an important point of Christian practice.

The immediate effect of the rupture of the marriage treaty was seen
in an invasion of Italy by the Greeks, in which at last the long
lingering Adelchis took part. The intention was to make an attack on
Charles’s dominions in combination with the Prince of Benevento (on
whom the dignity of patrician was conferred) perhaps also with Tassilo
the Bavarian; but before the Imperial troops landed in Italy, Arichis
of Benevento was no more. He died on the 26th of August 787, a man
still in the flower of his age. It is striking to observe how much
Charles’s upward course to empire was facilitated by the opportune
deaths of his competitors. Carloman, Constantine V., Leo IV., and now
Arichis of Benevento, all died at the most seasonable time for the
success of Charles’s projects. At the time of the death of Arichis,
his son and heir Grimwald III. was in Charles’s keeping as a hostage.
Pope Hadrian earnestly besought the king never to permit one of the
God-hated dynasty to ascend the Beneventan throne, but Charles, after
some delay, allowed Grimwald to return and take his place in the palace
of Benevento. He was, however, compelled to promise to pay a yearly
tribute of 7000 _solidi_, to coin money with Charles’s effigy, to date
his charters by the years of the Frankish king, and in all things to
acknowledge him as his over-lord. For the present these conditions
were kept, and at the crisis of the Byzantine invasion Grimwald III.
comported himself as a loyal vassal of Charles. So it came to pass
that when at last the Byzantine troops landed in Calabria they were met
by the united forces of the Frankish king under his general Winighis,
and the Lombard dukes of Spoleto and Benevento. The defeat of the
Greeks was crushing (788). Four thousand of their warriors were slain,
among them the _sacellarius_ John, commander of the expedition; and
one thousand were taken prisoners. Adelchis appears to have made his
escape. He reappeared no more on the soil of Italy, but died many years
after, an elderly, probably a wealthy, patrician at Constantinople.
This last scion of the Lombard kings is not an interesting figure in

Charles’s reply to this direct attack on his dominions in the south of
Italy was to lay hands on the Imperial province of Istria in the north,
a conquest desirable in itself, for the cities of Istria were numerous
and wealthy, and also one that facilitated the operations which he
was planning against the Avars. The Court of Constantinople, probably
dispirited by the defeat of the great armament under the _sacellarius_
John seems to have accepted the rebuff. For several years after this we
hear nothing more of Greek expeditions to Italy, though there may have
been intrigues with the young Prince of Benevento, who married a Greek
wife named Wantia, a relative of the Emperor, and in various ways
showed that he fretted under his galling vassalage to the Frankish king.

But in Constantinople itself during these years of truce with the
West, strange and terrible events were happening. The young Emperor
Constantine VI. found as he grew up to manhood that he was an absolute
cipher in his empire and in his palace. All power was kept by Irene in
her own hands, all orders went through her confidential minister the
eunuch Stauracius. To these two all suppliants dressed their petitions.
Constantine himself was treated as of no account to any man. Brooding
over the daily slights which he had to endure, and resenting also, it
is said, the manœuvre which had deprived him of his fair young Frankish
bride, and tied him to the unloved and childless Armenian, he began
in 790 to look around for partizans who would enable him to effect a
revolution and become a real instead of a puppet emperor. The plan of
the conspirators (among whom were two patricians and the great minister
called _magister officiorum_), was to arrest the empress, send her
off to banishment in Sicily, and proclaim Constantine sole emperor.
The ever watchful Stauracius, however, obtained intelligence of the
plot, arrested the conspirators, ordered some of them to be flogged,
tonsured, and sent into the Sicilian exile which they had planned for
Irene; the _magister officiorum_ received some degrading punishment
and was imprisoned in his own house; and lastly this same punishment
of seclusion was inflicted on Constantine, after his mother had
herself struck him and attacked him with an angry woman’s invective.
Then a new and strange oath was administered to all the soldiers in
the capital and its neighborhood. “So long as thou livest, O Empress!
we will not suffer thy son to reign.” These events took place in the
spring or summer of 791. In September of that year there came a change.
The soldiers who were stationed in Armenia, when they were required
to take the new oath, refused. “We will not put the name of Irene
before that of Constantine,” said they, “but will swear obedience
as of old to Constantine and Irene.” The disaffection spread; the
regiments which had sworn the new oath to Irene forgot their vows and
joined the soldiers from Armenia. By the end of October the revolution
was complete. Irene was compelled by the clamor of the soldiers to
liberate her son from confinement; she was deprived of all power, and
Constantine was hailed as sole emperor. Stauracius was beaten, tonsured
and sent into exile in Armenia. Aetius, another eunuch and confidant of
Irene, was also banished, and a clean sweep was made of all the menial
eunuch train, through whom apparently for ten years the empire had been

But, unfortunately, the character of the young emperor, weakened by the
subjection in which his mother had kept him, was utterly inadequate
to the duties of his new position. With extraordinary folly, after a
few months he drew Irene forth from the seclusion of her palace, and
allowed the people to shout once more, “Long life to Constantine and
Irene.” He went forth to war with the Bulgarians and was badly beaten.
This humiliation of the imperial arms caused the soldiers in the city
to plot for the elevation of Nicephorus, a half-brother of Leo IV. and
uncle of Constantine VI. The young emperor arrested Nicephorus and
ordered him to be blinded; and at the same time the tongues of four
other of his uncles were cut out (792). These barbarous punishments,
blinding and mutilation, were characteristic of the Constantinople of
that day, but the resort to them on so large a scale proved the alarm
as well as the cruelty of the young emperor, and must have helped to
lose him the hearts of his subjects. His mother and Stauracius (who
was now back again in the palace) were thought to have counselled
these cruel deeds; and they certainly succeeded in embroiling him with
his old supporters, the Armenian soldiers, whose revolts plunged the
empire in civil war.

The climax of the emperor’s unpopularity seems to have been reached
when (in January 795) he put away his Armenian wife, compelling her to
enter a convent, and in September of the same year publicly celebrated
his union with a lady of her bedchamber named Theodote. He had now lost
the favor of the multitude, while his mother was ever at work forming a
party among the officers by promises and bribes, suggesting that they
should depose her son and proclaim her sole empress. On the 14th of
June 797 Constantine went, after witnessing an equestrian performance
in the circus, to worship in the church of St. Mamas in the environs
of Constantinople. The conspirators, whose movements were directed
by Stauracius, endeavored to seize him there, but he seems to have
been warned, and escaped in the imperial boat to the Bithynian shore.
Unhappily his mother’s friends and his own bitterest foes accompanied
his flight. There was hesitation and delay, and there seemed a
possibility that the soldiers would rally round him and his cause might
yet triumph. The ruthless Irene sent a secret message to his adherents,
“Unless in some way or other you effect his capture I will inform the
emperor of all the plot which you and I have formed against him.”
Fear made the conspirators bold; they seized the emperor while at his
prayers, forced him to re-embark, and hurried him back across the Sea
of Marmora to Constantinople. There, after the lapse of some weeks,
in the Purple Chamber of the palace, they put out his eyes, purposely
performing the cruel operation with such brutality as to endanger
his life. It was, in fact, supposed by many that he was dead, but he
appears to have lingered on through many revolutions, an obscure and
forgotten sufferer, for more than twenty years after his mutilation.

The deed was done on Saturday the 15th of August 797, at the ninth
hour of the day. On the same day of the week and at the same hour,
five years before, had his uncle suffered the same punishment. Men
observed the coincidence and traced a divine retribution therein. But
with greater horror did they learn that the emperor had suffered this
brutal punishment in the Purple Chamber which was always reserved for
the birth of an emperor’s children. Here, in the very same room of the
palace where he first saw the light, did he with the connivance, if not
by the express command, of his mother lose the light of day and all
that makes life worth living. “For seventeen days,” says the historian,
himself an image-worshipper and adherent of Irene, “the sun was
darkened and did not give forth his rays, so that vessels lost their
course and drifted helplessly, and all men said and confessed that
because of the blinding of the emperor the sun did not show his beams.
Thus did Irene his mother obtain supreme power.”

The character of the Empress Irene receives unbounded praise from the
writers of the image-worshipping party. She is for them “the most
pious Irene,” “that strong-minded and God-guided woman, if, indeed, it
be right to call her a woman, who was armed against all foes and all
calamities with truly masculine temper.” “Irene, that strong-minded and
God-beloved woman, if we ought to call ‘woman’ one who surpassed even
man in her pious disposition, one through whom God mercifully expelled
the crooked heresy which had crept snakelike into the Church and
brought back orthodoxy.”

But neither these flatteries of the monkish image-worshippers, nor her
outward show of magnificence when, on Easter Monday (799), the proud
Athenian rode forth from the Church of the Apostles in a golden car
drawn by four white horses, which were driven by four patricians, and
showered money among the multitude after the fashion of the ancient
Consuls of Rome, represented the real place of the empress in the
hearts of her subjects. The rule of Irene meant, as every one knew,
the rule and the bickerings of the eunuchs who advised her. Moreover,
there was really no precedent for a woman sitting alone in the seat
of empire. When Pulcheria, sister of Theodosius II., was hailed as
Augusta, it was on condition of her giving her hand to the soldier
Marcian. Theodora and Sophia were Augustæ, but ruled only during the
lifetime of their husbands. When Martina, widow of Heraclius, tried
to pose as joint-ruler with her son and stepson (641), the multitude
shouted an indignant denial of her claims. “How can you sit upon the
throne and answer foreign envoys when they come to the royal city. God
forbid that the polity of the Romans should come into such a plight
as that.” It was a hundred and fifty-six years since the Byzantine
populace had hurled these words at Martina and compelled her to
descend from the throne, but we may be sure that the spirit which
prompted them still dwelt in the hearts of the mass of the people
who yet called themselves Romans. To be ruled by a woman, and such a
woman, the despoiler and all but murderer of her own son, was felt
to be an unendurable humiliation. The insecurity of Irene’s position
was shown by the shortness of her reign, but that short reign of five
years (797–802) was long enough to include, in a certain sense to
necessitate, the great event which will be the subject of the following



The events described at the end of the last chapter happened in August
797. In the autumn of the following year, when Charles was resting at
Aachen from the fatigues of a Saxon campaign on the banks of the Elbe,
there appeared before him two Byzantine ambassadors, Michael, aforetime
Patrician of Phrygia, and Theophilus, a priest of Blachernæ, who, on
behalf of the Empress Irene, sought for and obtained the restoration
of friendly relations between the empire and the kingdom. The covenant
of peace was ratified by the return of an illustrious Greek captive,
Sisinnius, brother of the Patriarch Tarasius, who had been taken
prisoner probably in the Apulian war of 788.

But a far more distinguished visitor than either Michael or Theophilus
was to visit Charles’s court in the following year, and to plead in
lowlier fashion for his help. To understand the nature of this visit we
must go back for a few years and glance at the events which had been
happening not in the New but in the Old Rome.

On the day after Christmas Day, 795, died Pope Hadrian I. after a long
and eventful pontificate. The relations between him and Charles had
not been always friendly, for Hadrian had found that no more than the
Lombard king would the Frank grant the exorbitant demands for towns
and lordships which were unceasingly urged in the name of St. Peter.
Still there had been a certain similarity of spirit and temper which
had drawn these two strong men together, and, as we have already seen,
Charles mourned for the death of Hadrian as if he had been the dearest
of his sons.

On the death of Hadrian, Leo III. was immediately elected to the
papal throne. He was a Roman by birth, an inmate from his childhood
of the Lateran palace, and had gone through the regular gradation
of ecclesiastical offices till he had reached the high position of
papal _vestararius_. It would seem probable that he was the candidate
most acceptable to the clerics of the Roman Church, though the result
showed that there was a large party among the great lay-officers of
the papal court to whom his elevation was by no means welcome. He was,
at a crisis of his fortunes, accused by bitter enemies of adultery and
forgery, but no proof was offered of these charges, and there seems
no reason to believe that his moral character was not stainless. There
are some indications, however, that he was not loved by the people of
Rome. Possibly his temper may have been harsh: possibly too they were
beginning to chafe under the yoke of the dignitary who but lately was
their spiritual pastor, sometimes their champion, but who now asserted
himself as their sovereign.

Immediately on his elevation, Pope Leo sent messengers to Charles
announcing his election and carrying to him the keys of St. Peter’s
tomb and the banner of the city of Rome. This act of submission to
the great Patrician of Rome, to whom the pope looked for confirmation
of his rights and protection from his enemies, was represented in the
celebrated mosaic in the Triclinium of the Lateran palace, of which
a tolerably accurate seventeenth-century copy still exists on the
outside wall of the oratory called the _Sancta Sanctorum_, immediately
in front of the Lateran. In it the Apostle Peter, of colossal size,
is represented sitting with the keys on his lap. Before him, on his
right, kneels Pope Leo, to whom he is giving the _pallium_; on his
left “our lord Carulus,” to whom he gives a banner; and underneath is
an inscription in barbarous Latin stating that the blessed Peter gives
life to Pope Leo and victory to King Charles. Charles is represented as
wearing a moustache, but no beard. He has a broad pleasant face and is
crowned with a conical diadem.

The Frankish king replied to the new pope by sending to him his friend
and chaplain Angilbert, bearing a letter in which he dilated on the
various duties which Providence had assigned to its sender and its
receiver. “It is ours with the help of the divine piety externally to
defend the Holy Church of Christ by our arms from all pagan inroads and
infidel devastation, and internally to fortify it by the recognition of
the Catholic faith. It is yours, most holy father, with hands raised
to God like Moses, to help our warfare; that by your intercession the
Christian people may everywhere have the victory over its enemies, and
the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be magnified throughout the whole
world.” At the same time Angilbert brought the share of the Avar booty
which Charles had set aside for Hadrian, but which came too late to
gladden the heart of the aged pontiff.

This exchange of embassies took place in 796. Two years later the
Christian world was horrified by the news of a brutal outrage enacted
in the streets of Rome. On the 25th of April 798, the pope was mounted
and preparing to ride forth from Rome along the Flaminian Way, in order
to celebrate what was called the Greater Litany, a religious function
which had taken the place of the heathen _Robigalia_[59] and in which
the Divine protection was implored for the springing corn against the
perils of blasting and mildew. Suddenly, ere he had emerged from the
city, he was set upon by a band of ruffians who had been lying in wait
at the church of St. Silvestro in Capite, on the right hand of the
Corso. They tore him from his horse, they belabored him with cudgels;
according to one account they tried to practice upon him the Byzantine
atrocities of pulling out the eyes and cutting out the tongue; at any
rate they left him speechless and helpless in the solitary street,
for all his long train of attendants, as well as the crowd which had
gathered after him to go forth in bright procession along the Flaminian
Way, forsook him and fled.

There is some reason to suppose that this attack was an outburst of
civic fury, exasperated by some acts of the unpopular pontiff; but
there is no doubt that the movement was directed by two men, Paschalis
and Campulus, who were high in office in the papal household, and
one or both of whom were nephews of the pope’s predecessor Hadrian.
A lurid light is shed by this fact on the heart-burnings and angry
disappointments which were often caused among the clients of a deceased
pope by the election of his successor.

After suffering many indignities the unhappy Leo was dragged at night
to the monastery of St. Erasmus on the Cœlian hill. Here he was closely
confined for some days, but he recovered somewhat from his bruises, and
sight returned--miraculously the next generation said--to his injured
eyes. By the help of a faithful servant, his chamberlain Albinus,
he succeeded in escaping--probably by a rope--down the wall of the
convent, and was taken by his friends to St. Peter’s. Here he was soon
in perfect safety, for the Frankish duke of Spoleto, Winighis, who had
heard of the murderous assault, came with an army to his rescue and
escorted him to his own city, a safe stronghold among the mountains of
Umbria. The foiled conspirators, who had heard with terror of their
victim’s flight, vented their rage on the house of Albinus, which they
gave to the flames. Probably for many subsequent months anarchy ruled
in Rome.

In the disturbed state of Italy, and with Rome given over to his
unscrupulous foes, the only resource left for the pope was in the
protection of Charles; and to his court, or rather to his camp, for
he was immersed in the Saxon war, Leo III. repaired in the summer of
799. It was now more than forty-five years since a pope (Stephen II.)
had crossed the Alps on a similar errand. Much had happened in the
interval. The monarchy of the “most unspeakable” Lombards had been
overthrown; the successor of St. Peter had become one of the great
princes of the earth; and yet, as Leo must with sadness have reflected,
not even sovereignty had brought safety. “Wounded in the house of his
friends,” the Bishop of Rome had received from the hands of his own
courtiers and subjects treatment infinitely more cruel and contumelious
than any that the much vituperated Lombard had ever inflicted on his
predecessors. Musing on these things Pope Leo doubtless saw that the
day-dream of a papal sovereignty extending over all Italy could not
be realized. Rather must he make his Frankish friend and protector
stronger in Italy. The Patrician of Rome must take some higher and more
imposing title, and must be induced to give more assiduous attention to
the affairs of the Italian peninsula.

As in that earlier papal visit Charles, then a lad of twelve, had been
sent to meet Stephen II., so now did Charles send his son Pippin (a
young man of twenty-two and the crowned king of Italy) to meet Pope
Leo. Pippin escorted the venerable guest into his father’s presence.
Pope and king embraced and kissed with tears. The clergy in the papal
train intoned the _Gloria in Excelsis_, and the nobles and courtiers
round added their joyful acclamations. This meeting took place at
Paderborn, where Charles had built a new and splendid church in the
place of the edifice often destroyed by the Saxons. In this church Pope
Leo hallowed an altar, which he enriched with relics of the protomartyr
Stephen brought by him from Rome, and assured the king that by the
powerful intercession of that saint the church would be preserved from
future devastation.

Leo remained probably for about two months, from July to September, at
Paderborn, in constant intercourse with Charles. Much would doubtless
be said in the conferences between the two potentates concerning
the condition of the Church, the heresy of the Adoptians,[60] the
Iconoclastic controversy, and above all concerning the charges brought
against the pope’s character by his relentless enemies in Rome. Was
there also something said about that great event towards which, as we
know, the course of history was tending, the bestowal of the imperial
title on Charles? Here we have only conjectures to guide us, but in
these conjectures we must take account of one most powerful influence
upon which I have hitherto been silent, the influence of the absent,
but continually consulted Northumbrian, Alcuin.

Alcuin, born of a noble Anglian family about the year 735, and
therefore some seven years older than Charles, was brought up from
childhood in the monastic seminary of York, and there drank in with
eager lips the learning, deepest and best of its day in all Europe,
which that celebrated school imparted to its pupils. Bede, it is true,
had died about the time of Alcuin’s birth, but from Bede’s pupil
Ecgbert, Archbishop of York (732–766), and from his successor Ælbert
(767–778), he acquired a knowledge, not only of theology, but also
of many secular arts and sciences. To astronomy he was led by the
intricate calculations and endless discussions concerning the true date
of Easter. But in the archiepiscopal library, as Alcuin himself tells
us, there was also a respectable collection of the Latin classics,
Pliny, Cicero, Virgil, Lucan, Statius are all enumerated by him,
as well as Aristotle, who was probably represented only by a Latin
translation. To the study of these authors the young Northumbrian gave
many industrious years; Virgil especially was long the master of his
soul, and the legends of a later generation told how the visit of an
evil spirit to his cell was necessary to frighten him away from the
nocturnal study of the Mantuan bard into the repetition of the Psalms
appointed for the midnight service. Certain it is, however, that he did
not forsake the study of the profane authors, until they had thoroughly
permeated his style. Although an ecclesiastic he wrote Latin, both
prose and verse, of which no Roman in the first century need have
been ashamed. To pass from the continual barbarisms, obscurities,
puerilities of Gregory of Tours, of Fredegarius, or even of the authors
of the _Liber Pontificalis_, to the easily flowing prose, or hexameter
verse of Alcuin is like going from the ill-spelt productions of a
half-educated ploughman to the letters of Cowper or the poetry of

Alcuin has been called the Erasmus of the eighth century, and though in
one respect the comparison is too flattering, since the Northumbrian
did but little for critical science, it gives on the whole not an
incorrect impression of the literary position of this man, the “child
and champion” of the Carolingian Renascence. It is evident that he
and the men with whom he associated, Angles, Saxons, or Franks, were
tired of the barbarism which had pervaded Europe for three centuries,
and looked back with longing, perhaps sometimes with unwise longing,
to the great days of Roman supremacy and peace. Even their Teutonic
names were to them somewhat of a humiliation. In the literary circle or
academy which formed itself in Charles’s court, chiefly under Alcuin’s
influence, the members assumed classical names (like the Melancthon
and Œcolampadius[61] of a later Renascence), and corresponded with one
another under these disguises. Thus Alcuin himself was Flaccus Albinus,
Riculf (afterwards Archbishop of Mainz) was Damœtas; Angilbert,
Charles’s chaplain, was Homer; Arno, Archbishop of Salzburg, was
Aquila. The name of the great king himself was David, a name admirably
chosen to express his piety, his success in war, and his love of women.

The event which brought “Albinus” and his “dearest David” together was
a journey which Alcuin undertook to Rome in 781, in order to obtain
the _pallium_ for his friend and superior, Eanbald II., Archbishop of
York. Alcuin himself was at this time, and in fact throughout middle
life and old age, only a deacon, though from his learning and piety
he wielded more influence than many bishops. Returning from Rome, he
met Charles at Parma, and was entreated by him to return to Frankland
on the accomplishment of his mission. He protested that he could only
do this with the consent of his king and his archbishop, and these
consents having been obtained he returned to Charles’s court and
resided there, a sort of literary prime minister, from 782 to 796,
with the exception of a visit to his own country between 790 and 792.
Though apparently he never entered the monastic state, he received from
Charles, as a piece of preferment, the headship of two abbeys, that of
Bethlehem at Ferrières and that of St. Lupus at Troyes. In 796, feeling
the need of repose, he obtained his master’s reluctant permission
to retire to the great monastery of St. Martin at Tours, which was
placed under his rule, and where he spent the remainder of his days.
This absence from the court is a fortunate thing for us, for to it we
owe the letters between Charles and Alcuin, of which a considerable
number are still preserved, and which show both king and deacon in
no unpleasing light. Sometimes Alcuin advises the king to treat the
conquered Saxons and Avars tenderly, and not to gall them with the
yoke of tithes. Sometimes he explains to his royal friend the meaning
of the terms Septuagesima and Sexagesima. Then he enters into long
discussions about the calendar, the date of Easter, the intercalations
necessary to bring the solar and the lunar years into harmony. The king
half mischievously refers these calculations to the well-taught pages
of his palace, who discover in them some errors, which, after much
mutual banter, the elder scholar is compelled to acknowledge. Always,
however, the intercourse is friendly, sincere, elevating. The king does
not patronize, and the deacon does not cringe. One cannot but feel in
reading these letters that both men were made to be loved.

Such was the man who, as there is every reason to believe, had
whispered to many of his friends the fateful word “Imperator” before
Pope Leo III. arrived, a hunted and half-blinded fugitive, at Charles’s

In the month of May (799) Alcuin had written to his royal master a
remarkable letter, commenting on the tidings which Charles had sent him
of the assault on Pope Leo. From this letter it will be well to extract
some sentences.

“To his peace-making lord King David, Albinus wishes health. I thank
your Goodness, sweetest David, for remembering my littleness and making
me acquainted with the facts which your faithful servant has brought to
my ears. Were I present with you I should have many counsels to offer
to your Dignity, if you had opportunity to listen or I eloquence to
speak. For I love to write concerning your prosperity, the stability
of the kingdom given you by God and the advancement of the Holy Church
of Christ. All which are much troubled and stained by the daring deeds
of wicked men which have been perpetrated, not on obscure and ignoble
persons, but on the greatest and the highest.

“For there have been hitherto three persons higher than all others in
this world. One is the Apostolic Sublimity who rules by vicarious power
from the seat of St. Peter, prince of the apostles. And what has been
done to him, who was the ruler of the aforesaid see, you have in your
goodness informed me.

“The second is the Imperial dignity and power of the second Rome.
How impiously the governor of that empire [Constantine VI.] has been
deposed, not by aliens but by his own people and fellow citizens,
universal rumor tells us.

“The third is the royal dignity in which the decree of our Lord Jesus
Christ has placed you as ruler of the Christian people, more excellent
in power than the other aforesaid dignities, more illustrious in
wisdom, more sublime in the dignity of your kingdom. Lo! now on you
alone the salvation of the churches of Christ falls and rests. You are
the avenger of crimes, the guide of the wanderers, the comforter of the
mourners, the exalter of the good.

“Have not the most frightful examples of wickedness now made themselves
manifest in the Roman see where of old there was the brightest religion
and piety? These men, blinded in their own hearts, have blinded him who
was their true head. There is in that place no fear of God, no wisdom,
no charity. What good thing can you look for where these are absent?
These are the perilous times long since foretold by Him who was Himself
the Truth, and therefore the love of many waxes cold.”

Alcuin then advises his royal friend to make peace if possible with the
“unutterable” people (the Saxons), to forbear threats in dealing with
them and to intermit, at any rate for a time, the exaction of tithes.
Evidently this prudent counsellor felt that the affairs of Italy had
now the most pressing claim on his master’s attention, and that it
would be wise to concentrate all his forces for the solution of the
problem which there awaited him.

It was then to a monarch thus prepossessed in his favor by the
representations of one of his nearest friends that Leo III. appealed
in the interview at Paderborn. The pope’s accusers sent their
representatives to the Saxon towns, repeating the charges of adultery
and perjury, and claiming that the pope should be called upon to deny
the truth of these charges on oath. Privily they gave him the advice of
professed well-wishers that he should give up the contest, lay down his
papal dignity and retire in peace to some convent. But the king, while
reserving the investigation into these charges for some future assembly
to be held in Rome, showed by his conduct that he attached to them
but little importance. After several weeks’ sojourn at Paderborn, Leo
was dismissed with all honor from the camp and was escorted by royal
_missi_ reverently back to Rome, where he received an enthusiastic
welcome from his penitent subjects (30th November, 799).

The close of this year was saddened by the tidings of the death of
those two brave champions of Frankish civilization, Gerold and Eric. In
the spring of 800, Charles set forth on an expedition into Neustria,
a part of his dominions which he had apparently not visited for
two-and-twenty years. Piratical raids of the Northmen seem to have been
the determining cause of this expedition, the object of which was to
put the coast of the Channel in a proper state of defence. He also,
however, received the submission of some Breton chiefs who had long
been in a chronic condition of revolt; he made the round of his villas
and country palaces in Neustria; and above all he visited the tomb of
St. Martin at Tours, and had a long spell of close and confidential
intercourse with his friend Alcuin. Here at Tours his fifth and last
wife Liutgard died (4th June, 800), and her illness probably lengthened
his stay in that city. At length, after revisiting Rhine-land and
holding a _placitum_ [assembly] at Mainz (August, 800) he began his
last and most celebrated journey into Italy.

Having rested for seven days at Ravenna, where he probably inhabited
the palace built by Theodoric wherein the Byzantine exarch had dwelt,
he marched down the coast of the Adriatic to Ancona. From thence he
despatched his son Pippin to lay waste the territories of that unruly
vassal, Grimwald of Benevento. Charles himself proceeded through the
Picene and Sabine districts by the old _Via Solaria_, and arrived at
Nomentum, fourteen miles from Rome. Here he was met by the pope, who
accosted him with every show of humility and deference. Pope and king
supped together at Nomentum, and then Leo returned to arrange for the
triumphal entry into Rome. Next day (24th November, 800) this great
pageant was enacted. The banners of the city of Rome borne by citizens,
the gilt crosses borne by ecclesiastics, came in long procession to
meet the great Patrician. Groups of citizens and of the foreigners
resident in Rome, Franks, Frisians, Saxons (among the latter doubtless
many of our own countrymen), stationed at intervals along the Salarian
Way, thundered forth their _laudes_ as the king rode by. St. Peter’s
Church, now as before, was the goal of his pilgrimage, and on the broad
marble stairs stood the pope, with all his train of bishops and clergy,
to welcome him. He sprang from his horse, mounted the steps (not now
apparently on his knees), and after receiving the papal blessing went
in and paid his devotions at the tomb of St. Peter.

The chief business which had brought King Charles to Rome was, of
course, the inquiry into the brutal assault on the pope and the
clearing of his character from the charges brought against him. Already
the Frankish _missi_ [ambassadors] who accompanied Leo to Rome had
held a preliminary inquiry, the result of which was that Paschalis
and Campulus had been sent across the Alps to Charles for judgment.
Now apparently they returned in his train, not so much to defend
themselves on the score of the outrage (for their guilt was too clear)
as to prove, if they could, their often-repeated accusations. A great
synod was assembled at St. Peter’s on the 1st of December, and was
opened by a speech from the king. According to the papal biographer,
the ecclesiastics composing the synod all with one accord declared:
“We do not dare to judge the Apostolic see, which is the head of all
the Church of God; for by it and by the Apostle’s vicar we all are
judged, but the see itself is judged of no man, and this has been the
custom from old time.” Whether this high papal doctrine was proclaimed
and accepted or not, it certainly seems as if Paschalis and Campulus
entirely failed to make good their charges; but the pope offered, if
his conduct were not drawn into a precedent against his successors, to
accept the challenge to clear himself by oath from the charges brought
against him. It is possible that the pope was only slowly brought to
make this concession, for it was not till more than three weeks after
the assembling of the synod that the next step was taken. On the 23d
of December, in the presence of the Roman clergy, as well as of the
Frankish followers of the king, Pope Leo appeared in the _ambo_[62]
of St. Peter’s, bearing a copy of the four gospels, which lie clasped
to his breast, and then he swore with a loud and clear voice: “Of all
those charges which the Romans, my unjust persecutors, have brought
against me, I declare in the presence of God and St. Peter, in whose
church I stand, that I am innocent, since I have neither done those
things whereof I am accused nor procured the doing of them.”

The result of the whole investigation was that Paschalis and Campulus
and their accomplices were found guilty of high treason and condemned
to death, a sentence which, on the intercession of the pope, was
commuted to perpetual banishment into Frank-land.

During the weeks that the papal trial was proceeding Charles, of
course, abode in Rome, whether in one of the old imperial dwellings on
the Palatine, or as an honored guest of the pope at the Lateran, we
are not informed. It was observed that now, as on the occasion of a
previous visit to Rome, out of courtesy to the pope he laid aside his
Frankish dress--a tunic with silver border, a vest of otter-skins and
sable, and a blue cloak--and wore instead, after the Roman fashion, a
long tunic and a _chlamys_[63] over it, shoes also made like those of
the Romans, instead of his Frankish boots with stockings and garters.

It was precisely during this month of December that by a fortunate
coincidence, the priest Zacharias, whom more than a year before
Charles had sent on a mission to the holy places, returned from the
East. Two monks came with him, from Olivet and St. Saba, sent by
the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and bringing by way of blessing from
that ecclesiastic the keys of the Holy Sepulchre and of Calvary, of
Jerusalem and Mount Zion, together with a consecrated banner. A more
striking testimony to the world-wide fame of the Frankish conqueror
could hardly have been rendered than this, which must have been meant
to invest Charles with a kind of protectorate over the most sacred
sites in Christendom.

The pope’s solemn oath of self-exculpation was sworn on the 23d of
December. Two days later was transacted that yet more solemn ceremony
by which the Patriarch of the Western Church, thus purged from the
stains which his assailants had sought to cast upon his character,
bestowed upon his royal champion that title which set him highest
among the rulers of the Christian world. The scene was again laid in
the great basilica of St. Peter, a building, of course, utterly unlike
to the vast Renaissance temple of Bramante and Michael Angelo. There,
on Christmas morning, Charles the Frank was worshipping before the
_Confessio_ or tomb of St. Peter. The stately Roman _chlamys_ hung
around his shoulders; the crowd that filled the basilica could see
with satisfaction the dainty Roman buskins of the kneeling monarch.
When he rose from prayer Pope Leo approached him, placed upon his head
a costly golden crown, and clothed him in the purple mantle of empire.
“Then,” says the papal biographer, “all the faithful Romans, beholding
so great a champion given them, and knowing the love which he bare to
the Holy Roman Church and its vicar, in obedience to the will of God
and of St. Peter, the key-bearer of the kingdom of heaven, cried out
with deep accordant voices: ‘To Charles, most pious and august, crowned
by God, the great and peace-bringing emperor, be life and victory!’”
Thereupon the people sang their jubilant _laudes_, and the pope
performed that lowly adoration wherewith his predecessors had been wont
to greet a Valentinian or a Theodosius.[64]

The deed was done, and the Holy Roman Empire, which lasted a thousand
years, and only in the days of our fathers was shattered by the fist
of Napoleon, was established, or (as Alcuin and Leo would have said)
was re-established in Europe. It was a revolution, no doubt, that was
enacted on that morning of the 25th of December 800. It could not have
been justified out of the Digest or the Code. According to all the
maxims of legitimacy which had prevailed for many preceding centuries,
Charles was an usurper and Leo an intermeddling traitor. And yet, if
one could go back still earlier to the first days of the empire, the
bestowal of the imperial title on Charles was not so utterly lawless
a proceeding. The Roman Imperator in those early centuries was not by
any elaborate process elected, but was always acclaimed. Acclaimed by
the army, it is true, but also by the people, and there were doubtless
many soldiers of the _militia cohortalis_ [the imperial guard] of
Rome present among the crowd who shouted for life and victory to the
peace-bringing emperor. When acclaimed by army and people the Cæsar
was, or ought to be, accepted by the Senate; and there are some
indications that after centuries of suspended animation a body calling
itself the Senate was at this time existing in Rome and consenting
to the elevation of Charles. And these bodies, Senate, people, army,
however insignificant in themselves, were at any rate Roman: they
belonged to the true old Rome; they trod the forum of the republic,
and looked up to the Palatine of the emperors; they were not like the
bastard Romans of the Bosphorus, who chattered in Greek and wore the
robes of Asia, but who had usurped for many centuries the profitable
trademark of the Senate and People of Rome. So, though there was
but one precedent--and that the bad one of Maximin the Thracian--for
conferring the dignity of emperor on a man of purely Teutonic descent,
and though it is quite impossible to find a place for the chief actor,
the Bishop of Rome, in the drama as played by all the earlier Cæsars,
we may on the whole conclude that Charles became Roman Emperor by
as good a title as any who had worn the purple since the days of

What were the chief causes which led to this great change in the
political constitution of Europe? They have been already hinted at, and
we shall probably not be wrong in enumerating them as follows:

_First._--The great revival of classical learning, due chiefly to the
labors of Anglo-Saxon scholars; a movement of which men like Bede and
Alcuin were the standard-bearers. The minds which were influenced by
this revival perceived plainly that the interests of civilization,
and to a certain extent of Christianity, had been in past centuries
identical with those of the great Roman Empire; and from a genuine
revival of that Empire (not from a mere ephemeral reconquest of certain
cities or provinces by a _spatharius_ or _cubicularius_ setting sail
from Constantinople), they anticipated, not altogether erroneously,
great gains for the civilization and the Christianity of the future.

_Second._--The anomalous position of that which called itself the
empire, which for the first time in its history found itself under what
John Knox called “the monstrous regiment of a woman,” and that woman
the murderess of her child.

_Third._--The brutal attack on Pope Leo made by the disappointed
kinsmen of his predecessor. This event may well have produced an
important change in the attitude of the pope towards the question of
reviving the empire in the west. Before that day of April when he was
assaulted by his own courtiers and left half dead in the streets of
Rome, he may (as has been already hinted) have looked forward to a time
when he should reign over the best part of Italy, subject to no king
or governor; and when whispers reached him of the use of the words
“Emperor” and “Imperial” by the learned ecclesiastics of Charles’s
court he may in that mood of mind have shown that their proposals were
little to his taste. After that fatal day, his reluctance, if he had
any, to see one man in the Italian peninsula holding an indisputably
higher position than his own, was changed into eager acquiescence
in the scheme. He was willing, nay anxious, to see the purple robe
encircling the stalwart limbs of the Frankish conqueror, if only he
himself might take shelter under that robe from the dagger of the

In all this it may be truly said that we have failed to consider one
important factor in the problem, the desires and ambitions of Charles
himself. Unfortunately a mystery which we cannot penetrate hangs over
that very subject. One of his most intimate friends, his secretary
Einhard, expressly says that Charles “at first so greatly disliked the
title of Emperor and Augustus that he declared that if he could have
known beforehand the intention of the pope he would never have entered
the church on that day, though it was one of the holiest festivals of
the year.”

It used to be assumed that this reluctance on the part of Charles to
receive the new dignity was only a bit of well-played comedy between
him and Leo, that the Frankish king had been long aspiring to the
imperial dignity, and had even put constraint upon the pope to force
him to take part in the coronation. More recent discussion has shaken
our confidence in this easy solution of the problem: and probably the
greater number of writers on the history of this period now hold that
Charles was speaking the truth when he expressed his dissatisfaction
with the pope’s proceedings. The cause of that dissatisfaction can
only be conjectured. Einhard seems to hint that it was fear of the
resentment of the Byzantine Cæsars, but this hardly seems a sufficient
cause to one who remembers the low estate of the eastern monarchy under

With much more probability Professor Dahn argues that what Charles
disliked was not the bestowal of the title in itself, but the bestowal
by the pope. He thinks that Charles and his counsellors had already,
in 799, virtually resolved on the revival of the empire, that the pope
penetrated their design, and determined that if that step were taken he
at least would be chief actor in the drama; that by his adroit tactics
he, so to speak, forced Charles’s hand, and that the latter, foreseeing
the evil consequences which would result from the precedent thus
established, of a pope-crowned emperor, expressed his genuine feelings
of vexation to his friend Einhard when he said, “Would that I had never
entered St. Peter’s on Christmas Day.” Certainly the remembrance of all
the miserable complications caused during the Middle Ages by the pope’s
claim to set the crown on the head of the emperor would do much to
justify the unwillingness of a statesman such as the Frankish king to
bind this chain round the limbs of his successors.

But even beyond this it seems possible that Charles’s own mind was not
fully made up as to the expediency of accepting the imperial diadem, by
whomsoever bestowed. That the plan had been discussed (perhaps often
discussed, through many years), by his more highly educated courtiers,
cannot be denied. He may have been dazzled by the brilliancy of the
position which was thus offered him; and yet the calmer judgment of
that foreseeing mind of his may not have been satisfied that it was
altogether wise for him to accept it. The Frankish kingdom, as it had
been built up by the valor and patience of Charles and his forefathers,
was a splendid and solid reality. This restored empire of Rome that
they talked of, would be even more splendid, but would it be equally
substantial? After all, the whole Roman _Orbis Terrarum_ was not
subject to his sway. Was it wise to assume a title which seemed to
assert a shadowy claim to vast unsubdued territories? Was it wise to
claim for a Teuton king that all-embracing authority wherewith the
legists had invested the Roman Imperator? The controversies of Guelphs
and Ghibellines, which distracted Italy for centuries, show that these
questions, if they presented themselves to the mind of Charles,
were questions which greatly needed an answer. And there was also a
difficulty, which has perhaps not been sufficiently dwelt upon, arising
from Charles’s prospective division of his dominions among his sons.
Charles, the eldest, was to succeed him in that Austrasian region which
was the heart and stronghold of his kingdom. If any son were to inherit
the Imperial dignity, sitting on a higher throne than his brethren and
holding a certain pre-eminence over them, that son must be Charles. Yet
Pippin, the second son, was the actual king and destined heir of Italy,
and would rule over Rome, the city from which the Roman Emperor was
to take his title. Here was the germ of probable future embroilments
between his sons, such as the prudent Charles may well have feared to

Upon the whole, therefore, it appears a probable conclusion that
Charles, though he accepted the imperial crown, accepted it with
genuine reluctance, and that he was the passive approver rather than
the active and ambitious contriver of the great revolution of 800.

In the summer of 801 Charles recrossed the Alps to his home in
Rhine-land. In the thirteen years of life which remained to him he
never again entered Italy, but he was, during the greater part of that
time, well represented there by his son, the able and courageous Pippin.

A question which doubtless excited much interest in all the Frankish
world was, how Charles’s assumption of the imperial title would be
viewed at Constantinople. There must have been many among the Byzantine
statesmen who bitterly resented it, but Irene’s position was too
insecure to permit of her giving utterance to their indignation. It is
indeed stated by a Greek chronicler that Charles sent an embassy to
Constantinople proposing to unite the two empires by his own marriage
with Irene, and that the project was only foiled by the opposition of
the eunuch Aetius who was scheming to secure the succession for his
brother. Whether this be true or not (and the entire silence of the
Frankish authorities on the subject is somewhat suspicious), there is
no doubt that a friendly embassy from Irene appeared at Charles’s court
in 802, and was replied to by a return embassy, consisting of Bishop
Jesse and Count Helmgaud, who were despatched from Aschen in the same
year, and that this embassy may have carried a declaration of love from
the elderly Frank to the middle-aged Athenian. But not in such romantic
fashion was the reconciliation of the two empires to be effected.
While the bishop and the count were tarrying at Constantinople they
were the unwilling spectators of a palace-revolution, which possibly
may have been hastened by their presence and by the fear of a treaty,
wounding to the national pride. On the 31st October, 802, Irene was
deposed and the Grand Treasurer of the empire, Nicephorus, was raised
to the throne. Irene’s life was spared, but she was banished to an
island in the Sea of Marmora, and afterwards to the isle of Lesbos,
where according to one account she was so meanly supplied with the
necessaries of life by her penurious successor, that this proud and
brilliant lady had to support herself by spinning. She died on the 9th
August, 803.

Again the precariousness of the new ruler’s position compelled him
to assume a courteous tone towards the Frankish sovereign. Charles’s
ambassadors were accompanied on their return journey by three envoys
from Nicephorus, a bishop, an abbot, and a life-guardsman, who were
charged with many professions of amity and good-will to the Frankish
king. In all this, however, there was no sign of recognition of Charles
as Emperor, and for any such recognition Charles apparently waited for
eight years in vain.

In 806 there was actual war between the two states, the bone of
contention being the little island-state of Venice, which was
now rising into commercial importance and in whose obscure and
entangled history two parties, a Frankish and a Byzantine, are dimly
discernible. After a long time a fleet from Constantinople appeared
for a second time in Venetian waters, but was not able to prevent the
victory of Pippin, who made a grand attack by land and sea, and subdued
apparently the cities of the lagunes, whose capital was at this time
shifted to the Rialto. This occurred in 810, but in the same year there
appeared at Aachen an ambassador from Nicephorus who probably, amid
the usual unmeaning professions of friendship, conveyed a hint that
his master might be willing, for a suitable compensation, to recognize
Charles as Roman Emperor. On this hint, for which he had waited with
statesmanlike patience, the Frankish monarch acted. He expressed his
willingness to surrender the Adriatic territories, Venetia, Istria,
Liburnia, and Dalmatia to “his brother Nicephorus” and sent Heito,
Bishop of Basel, with two colleagues to settle the terms of the new

Unhappily, when Heito and his colleagues arrived in Constantinople they
found a change in the occupant of the palace. Nicephorus had fallen in
battle, a most disastrous battle, with Krum, the King of the Bulgarians
(25th July, 811); but his brother-in-law and successor, Michael
Rhangabé, was abundantly willing to confirm the proposed accommodation
with the most powerful sovereign of the west. In truth the suggestion
must have come at a most welcome season, for Constantinople was just
then as hard pressed by the Bulgarian as she had ever been by the Avar
or the Saracen. So it came to pass that yet another embassy from the
Byzantine court appeared at Aachen in January 812. A formal document
containing the terms of the treaty of peace was handed to them by
Charles in the church of the Virgin, and possibly the counterpart was
received from the ambassadors. But the essential point was, that they
sang a litany in the Greek tongue in which they hailed the Frankish
sovereign as Imperator and Basileus. That was a formal recognition of
Charles’s equality, and thenceforth no one could doubt that there was
an Emperor by the Rhine as well as by the Bosphorus.



The somewhat tedious tale of the wars of the August and Pacific Emperor
is happily almost at an end.

We hear of repeated ravages by Scandinavian pirates along the shores
of the German and Atlantic oceans: by Moorish pirates along the shore
of the Mediterranean: and with neither class of freebooters does
Charles appear to have grappled very successfully, for the good reason
that he never devoted a sufficient portion of his energies to the
establishment of a navy. The well-known story that Charles saw from
the windows of his palace at Narbonne the Danish sea-rovers scudding
over the waters of the Gulf of Lyons, and foretold with tears the
miseries which these freebooters should bring upon his posterity and
their realm, comes to us on the late and doubtful authority of the
Monk of St. Gall and need not be accepted as authentic history: but
that was one of the thunderclouds looming up on the horizon of the
ninth century whether Charles was ware of it or no. While the pirate
barks of the Scandinavians were spreading terror over the islands of
the west, the land forces of the King of Denmark were threatening the
north-eastern boundary of Charles’s kingdom. Here the Saxons, at last
subdued into loyalty, were, as we have seen, bounded on the east by the
Sclavonic nations, the Abodrites, and the Wiltzi, and on the north,
in Sleswik, by the Danes. The usual arrangement of parties in the
perpetually recurring frontier wars was this: the Saxons (that is the
Frankish kingdom) in alliance with the Abodrites on one side, and the
Danes with the Wiltzi on the other. The king of the Abodrites was named
Drasko; the king of the Danes was Godofrid, a proud, high-soaring king
of pirates, who ventured to put himself on an equality with the mighty
Frankish Emperor, declaring that Friesland and Saxonland were of right
his territories, and that he would appear one day with all his warriors
round him at Aachen and would try conclusions with Charles.

It was in the years from 808 to 810 that this menace to the
tranquillity of the Frankish kingdom showed itself in its most alarming
shape. In the first of those years Godofrid invaded the territory of
the Abodrites and ravaged their lands. Drasko fled before him, but
another chieftain, Godelaib, was treacherously taken and hung. The
Wiltzi joined forces with the Danes: and after much slaughter on both
sides (for the flower of the Danish nobility fell in this campaign),
the Abodrites were made subject to tribute to the Danish king. In
retaliation for this onslaught on a friendly tribe, the younger Charles
was sent across the Elbe with an army, but though he ravaged the lands
of some Sclavonic allies of the Danes he seems to have returned home
without achieving any decisive victory. Then both the two chief powers,
knowing that a war of reprisals was imminent, took to fortifying their
frontier. Godofrid drew across Holstein that line of forts which has
since become famous as the Dannewerk, and Charles erected fortresses on
his side of the border, especially restoring the stronghold of Hohbuoki
which had been destroyed by the Wiltzi.

Next year (809) Godofrid sought and obtained an interview with Charles
at Badenfliot (in Holstein), desiring to exculpate himself from the
charge of having provoked the previous war. But the interview came
to nothing. The Danish king did not sincerely desire peace, and
probably showed too plainly the arrogance of his ignorant soul and his
foolish pretensions to equality with Charles. He succeeded, however,
in patching up a temporary peace with the Abodrite chief Drasko who
returned to his own land, but only to fall a victim some months later
to the treacherous attack of a vassal of Godofrid’s, who was believed
to have been incited to the deed by the Danish king. In 810 the contest
seemed to be growing desperate, and the wild hopes of Godofrid to be
approaching fulfilment. A fleet of two hundred Danish ships sailed to
Friesland, laid waste all the multitudinous islands on the Frisian
shore, and landed an army on the mainland, which defeated the Frisians
in three pitched battles and laid upon them a tribute, of which 100
lbs. of silver had been already paid when tidings of the disaster
reached the emperor in his palace at Aachen. He at once set about the
too long delayed construction of a fleet: and at the mouths of all
the rivers which poured into the German Ocean, the Channel, and the
Atlantic, the sound of the shipbuilder’s hammer was heard. Then in the
midst of his anxieties he received two welcome pieces of intelligence.
The first was that the Danish fleet had returned home: the second
that Godofrid was dead, murdered by one of his vassals, a fitting
retribution for the assassination of Drasko, which he himself had

After this there was peace for the rest of Charles’s life between him
and the Danes. Hemming, the nephew and successor of Godofrid, was not
strong enough to continue the aggressive policy of his uncle, and on
Hemming’s death (812) there was a bloody civil war between his family
and the rival dynasty of Harald. However, Charles wisely did not relax
his naval preparations, but in the year 811 repaired to Boulogne in
order to review the fleet which he had commanded to be assembled there
from the various estuaries of his kingdom. Was it partly in remembrance
of this event, that nearly a thousand years later, Napoleon, that
great imitator of Charlemagne, caused his flotilla to assemble at
Boulogne[66] for the long meditated, never accomplished, invasion of

The last years of the great emperor’s life were saddened by a
succession of domestic afflictions: but before describing them it will
be well to give a glance at his family life in his happier middle age
before these troubles fell upon him. As we have seen, Charles was five
times married. Of his first wife Himiltrud, mother of the hunchback
Pippin, we know nothing, save that, according to Pope Stephen’s
account, she was “sprung from the very noble race of the Franks,” and
that she must have either died or been divorced before 770, when he
married the daughter of the Lombard king, who is by one writer called
Desiderata, and by another Bertrada. She bore him no children, and on
her divorce after something less than a year of matrimony, Charles
married Hildegard, a noble Swabian lady, the best beloved of all his
wives. Her life, though splendid, was not an easy one. She was only
thirteen years old when she married the Frankish hero who was verging
on thirty: she accompanied him on his campaigns and pilgrimages:
she bore him nine children, and after twelve or thirteen years of
wedlock she died on the 30th of April 783, and was buried at Metz in
the chapel of St. Arnulf, her husband’s revered ancestor. From this
marriage sprang all the three sons, Charles, Pippin, Louis, among whom
Charlemagne hoped to divide his kingdom, also another son who died in
infancy, and five daughters. The eldest of these daughters was that
princess Hrotrud who learned Greek of Elissæus, and who so narrowly
missed sharing the Byzantine throne.

A few months after the death of Hildegard, Charles married (about
October, 783) Fastrada, daughter of the Austrasian count Radolf,
with whom he shared eleven years of married life, and whose baneful
influence on his character and conduct is described to us by Einhard.
She bore him two daughters (both of whom eventually became abbesses)
but no son, and died on the 10th of August, 794, shortly after the
great council of Frankfurt.

Not many years after Fastrada’s death Charles married his fifth wife,
the Alamannian Liutgard, who had previously lived with him as his
concubine, and who died on the 4th of June, 800, a few months too
soon to wear the title of Empress. We are not told of any issue of
this marriage, the last legal union which Charles contracted--the
magnificent scheme of a marriage alliance with Irene having never been
realized. We hear, however, of four additional concubines and several
illegitimate children, some of whom rose to high honors in the church.

The home which the great emperor favored above all others was that
city which his love alone made eminent, though he did not absolutely
found it, the city which the Romans called Aquisgranum, which the
Germans now call Aachen, and the French Aix-la-Chapelle. Here, on the
southern slope of the Lousberg hills, in the pleasant land between
Rhine and Meuse, Charles made the dwelling-place of his old age. With
all his wide, far-reaching schemes he remained, it would seem, at
heart a Ripuarian Frank--Ripuarian not Salian--and we may conjecture
that Neustria was to him as little of a homeland as Aquitaine or even
Italy. The river Rhine with its great bordering bishoprics, Mainz,
Köln, Trier, and its grand Romanesque churches, bore for centuries
the character which it had received from the greatest of its sons, the
friend alike of Hadrian the Pope and of Alcuin the scholar: and, if not
on the actual banks of the Rhine, at least in the near neighborhood
of Rhine-land it was fitting that Charles should die. Doubtless the
nature-heated baths which had been known since the time of Severus
Alexander, and which are said to have been named from Apollo Granus,
were the chief determining causes which led Charles to visit the place,
at which indeed his father Pippin had kept Christmas and Easter as long
ago as 765. But having visited it, and probably derived benefit from
the waters, he evidently became more and more attached to the place.
We first hear of Charles keeping his Christmas there in 788: but after
that the name is of frequent recurrence in the Annals till at last
Worms and Frankfurt which had before been his favorite abiding-places
are almost entirely superseded, and “Imperator celebravit natalem
Domini Aquisgrani,”[67] becomes the regular formula of the chronicles.

Here, then, at Aachen, Charles built himself a lordly palace and a
church, joined together by a colonnade. For both these structures he
or his architect, Master Odo, borrowed the plan from Ravenna; the
palace being built after the pattern of Theodoric’s palace, and the
church, which was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, being a copy of that
dedicated to San Vitale. Nor was the plan the only thing which was
borrowed. Columns and marble tablets were brought from Rome as well as
from Ravenna. The mosaics from Theodoric’s palace and the equestrian
statue in gilded bronze of the great Ostrogoth--a work apparently of
more artistic merit than most of the productions of the sixth century,
were all carried off from the city on the Ronco[68] to adorn the Belgic
palace of the new emperor. Near the palace was a wide-stretching forest
surrounded with walls, full of game, resounding with the song of birds
and watered by the little stream of the Worm.

Of all these memorials of the great emperor probably nothing now
remains but the church. The deer-park has doubtless long since
disappeared: of the palace all that can be said is that the Rathhaus
is built upon its site: but the _Capella in Palatio_ still stands,
and is included in the much later building which is known as the
Münster. It is about 100 feet high and 50 feet in diameter, surmounted
by an octagonal cupola and surrounded by a sixteen-sided cloister.
The resemblance to San Vitale at once strikes the visitor who is
acquainted with the churches of Ravenna.

It was certainly a triumphant era for the Frankish nation--still _one_,
not yet fallen asunder into diverse and hostile nationalities--when the
embassies of mighty kings from east and west trod the streets of the
little city in Rhine-land which their ruler, sprung, not from a long
line of kings but from a family of Austrasian nobles, had made the seat
of his empire. Thither came swarthy Saracens from Bagdad, ambassadors
from the court--

          Of Haroun, for whose name by blood defiled,
    Genius hath wrought salvation.

Common enmities (for they both were hostile to the Ommayad Caliphs and
the eastern emperors), drew together these two men whose names for
so long were dear to the story-tellers of east and west, Charlemagne
and Haroun-al-Raschid. Haroun sent to Charles in 807 some sort of
message or letter confirming the act of the Patriarch of Jerusalem
which by the surrender of the keys constituted him guardian of the Holy
Places. Some years before he had sent, besides other rich and costly
presents, one which especially impressed the minds of the Franks,
an enormous elephant named Abu-l-Abbas. Under the guidance of its
keeper, Isaac the Jew, the elephant safely reached Aachen, where it
abode for eight years. In the year 810 it was taken across the Rhine,
apparently that its great strength might be made use of in the expected
campaign against Godofrid the Dane; and its sudden death at Lippeham in
Westphalia is solemnly recorded by the chroniclers among the memorable
events of that melancholy year.

It was in this same year, in the month of October, that the emperor saw
with pride two embassies, from east and west, meet at his court. The
long delayed overtures for reconciliation from the Emperor Nicephorus
were brought by the one, and proposals for a treaty of peace with El
Hakem the Cruel, Emir of Cordova, were brought by the other embassy and
graciously accepted by Charles.

Nor was our own island unrepresented among the embassies which visited
the Frankish Court. With Offa of Mercia, most powerful of English kings
before the rise of Ecgbert, the relations were not altogether friendly.
A treaty for the marriage of the younger Charles with the daughter of
Offa broke down (789), it is said, because of Offa’s counter-proposal
on behalf of his son for the hand of Charles’s daughter Bertha. Some
passages in this abortive “double marriage negotiation” so annoyed
the Frankish king that English merchants were forbidden to land on
the shores of Gaul. However, though no marriage was brought to pass,
friendly relations between the two kings were restored, perhaps
through the mediation of Offa’s subject, Alcuin; and in 796 when the
great _Hring_ of the Avars had been despoiled by Eric of Friuli, an
Avar sword was graciously sent by Charles as a present to the King of

It was not at Aachen but at Nimguen on the Rhine that another English
king, driven from his realm by revolution, Eardulf of Northumberland,
visited Charles’s court in 808 and besought his aid to restore him to
his throne. Charles seems to have embraced his cause and sent him on
to Rome with a letter of recommendation to Pope Leo whose help was
needed, as the Archbishop of York had taken an active part in Eardulf’s
deposition. With the help of emperor and pope, Eardulf was restored
(809) to a throne which he seems to have justly forfeited by various
acts of tyranny; but the reign of the restored king was of short

It may be permitted to conjecture that the happiest period of the
life of Charles consisted of the fifteen years which he spent mainly
at Aachen between 795 and 810. The Saxon and Avar wars were drawing
to a close, his labors for the reform of the Church and for the
spread of learning were bearing manifest fruit: the haughty and
difficult-tempered Fastrada was dead, and his children, whom he loved
with fondness not often found in palaces, were growing up around him.
The few words in which Einhard sketches his family life give one an
impression of joyous magnificence not unlike that which the poets have
feigned concerning the purely imaginary court of King Arthur:--

“He determined so to bring up his children that all, both sons and
daughters, should be well grounded in liberal studies, to which he
himself also gave earnest attention. Moreover, he caused his sons as
soon as they were of the proper age to learn to ride after the manner
of the Franks, to be trained to war and the chase: but his daughters he
ordered to learn the spinning of wool, to give heed to the spindle and
distaff, that they might not grow slothful through ease, but be trained
to all kinds of honest industry....

“So great was the attention which he paid to the education of his sons
and daughters that when he was at home he would never sup without
them; when he journeyed they must accompany him, the sons riding by
his side and the daughters following a little behind, while a band of
servants appointed for this purpose brought up the rear. As for these
daughters, though they were of great beauty and were dearly loved by
him, strange to say he never gave one of them in marriage either to a
man of his own nation or to a foreigner, but he kept them all with him
in his own house till his death, saying that he could not dispense with
their company. On this account, prosperous as he was in other ways, he
experienced the unkindness of adverse fortune, as to which, however, he
so skilfully dissembled that no one would suppose that any suspicion of
a stain on their fair fame had ever reached his ears.”

This last sentence of Charles’s usually enthusiastic biographer hints
at court scandals which could not be always concealed, and the results
of some of which appear in the Carolingian pedigrees. But the previous
statement concerning his unwillingness to have his merry family circle
broken in upon by the unwelcome claims of a son-in-law, may possibly
help to explain what has perplexed us in the rupture of the matrimonial
treaty with Byzantium or even with the King of Mercia. Instead of
seeking for deep state-reasons of policy for these failures, we ought,
perhaps, simply to see in them the pardonable weakness of a father who,
when the crisis came, gave more heed to the voice of family affection
than to the maxims of state-craft.

A notice of Charles’s home life would be incomplete without some
allusion to the circle of friends by whom he was surrounded, and whom
he seems to have inspired with a genuine love for himself as a man,
apart from their loyalty to him as sovereign.

The great ecclesiastics who, under the name of Arch chaplains, held a
place similar to that of a modern prime minister, Fulrad, Abbot of St.
Denis, who had been chaplain to his father and who died in 784; his
successor Angilram, Bishop of Metz, who died while accompanying Charles
on his Avar campaign in 791; Hildibald, Archbishop of Cologne, who
stood by the emperor’s death-bed: all these men, though highly trusted
and able servants, have not left many evidences by which we can judge
of their individual characters. Much more interesting is Charles’s
relation to the men of letters whom he delighted to gather around him.
Chief among these were Alcuin, Peter of Pisa, Paul the Lombard, and

Of Alcuin, who might truly be called Charles’s literary prime minister,
no more need be said, save that he died at Tours in 804, full of years
and in unclouded friendship with the emperor.

It was apparently about the year 780 that Peter of Pisa, a deacon who
had once taught in the Lombard capital, Pavia, and had there held a
celebrated disputation with a Jew named Lullus, came to Charles’s
court. He was then an old man. Grammar was his main subject, and
Charles regularly attended his lectures. The date of his death is
uncertain, but it was before the year 799.

Paul the Lombard, generally known as Paulus Diaconus, probably made
Charles’s acquaintance during his second visit to Italy (780–781). At
any rate, somewhere about the year 782 he followed Charles across the
Alps, and was for some two or three years in pretty close attendance at
the Frankish court. The main object of his journey was to obtain pardon
and the restitution of confiscated property for his brother Arichis
who, as has been already stated, seems to have been involved in the
rebellion of Duke Hrodgaud, and was carried captive into Frankland,
leaving his wife and children destitute. There can be little doubt that
the pardon of Arichis was granted to the intercession of his brother,
for whom Charles seems to have conceived an especial affection. An
amusing but fearfully perplexing series of poems exists, in which
enigmas, compliments, and good-natured banter are exchanged between the
king, Paulus Diaconus, and Petrus Pisanus. At dawn of day a trim young
courtier with a hopeful little beard brings to Peter the grammarian
a riddle which the king has thought of in the night and desires him
to guess it. In despair Peter turns to Paul, begging for his aid. In
a hexameter poem of forty-seven lines (all the correspondence is
in verse) Paul gives his version of the answer, which, if correct,
certainly proves the riddle to have been a very foolish one. At another
time the king poetically asks Paul which of three penalties he would
prefer--to be crushed under an immense weight of iron, to be doomed
to lie in a gloomy dungeon-cave, or to be sent to convert and baptize
Sigfrid who “wields the impious sceptre of pestilential Denmark.” Paul
replies in a strain of enthusiastic devotion that he will do anything
which the king desires him to do, but that as he knows no Danish he
will seem like a brute beast when he stands in the presence of the
barbarian king. Yet would he have no fear for his own safety if he
undertook the journey: for if Sigfrid knew that he was one of Charles’s
subjects, so great is his dread of the Frankish king that he would
not dare to touch him with his little finger. And so on through many
hexameter and pentameter verses. A harsh critic might describe the
whole correspondence as “gracious fooling,” but in view of the hard and
toilsome life of the slayer and converter of so many Saxons, it is a
consolation to find that he had leisure and spare brain-power even for
occasional nonsense.

Paulus Diaconus, after a few years’ sojourn at the Frankish court,
returned to Italy to the shelter of his beloved convent of Monte
Cassino, where he died, probably in one of the closing years of the
eighth century. We are indebted to him, not only for his well-known
_Historia Langobardorum_--almost the only record of the history of
Italy from 568 to 744--but also for a book on the _Gesta Episcoporum
Mettensium_ which gives us valuable information as to the lives of the
early Arnulfings.

The last of Charles’s literary courtiers who can be noticed here
is Einhard or (as his name is commonly but less correctly written)
Eginhard. This man, who was born near the time of Charles’s accession
to the kingdom, and who survived him about thirty years, was the son of
Einhard and Engilfrita, persons of good birth and station who dwelt in
Franconia near the Odenwald. He was educated in the monastery of Fulda,
and came as a young man to the Frankish court, where his nimbleness
of mind, his learning and his skill in the administration of affairs
so recommended him to Charles that for the remaining twenty years or
more of his reign the little Franconian--he was a man of conspicuously
short stature--was the great king’s inseparable companion. His skill
in all manner of metal work earned for him in that name-giving circle
of friends the name of Bezaleel, by which he is pleasantly alluded to
in one of Alcuin’s letters. He was employed to superintend some of
Charles’s great architectural works: notably the palace and basilica
at Aachen, the palace at Ingelheim and the great bridge over the Rhine
at Mainz. A twelfth-century chronicler connected his name unpleasantly
with that of one of the daughters of Charles: but for this scandal
there does not seem to be the slightest foundation. None of Charles’s
daughters was named Emma, the name attributed to the alleged mistress,
afterwards wife, of Einhard. His real wife appears to have been Emma,
sister of Bernhard, Bishop of Worms. About the year 826 he and his wife
parted by mutual consent and “gave themselves to religion.” He was
ordained priest and retired to the monastery of Seligenstadt on the
Main where he died about the year 840.

Einhard had a share (how large is a subject of constant discussion), in
the composition of the official Annals which are our most trustworthy
authority for the history of his master’s reign. But we are far more
indebted to him for his short tract _De Vita Caroli Magni_ from which
several extracts have already been made. In this life there is an
evident ambition on the part of the writer, who calls himself “a
barbarian little skilled in Roman speech” to follow the example of the
great classical authors. His imitation, especially, of the Life of
Augustus by Suetonius, is almost servile, and provokes much laughter
on the part of modern scholars; but however he may be derided, the fact
remains that almost all our real, vivifying knowledge of Charles the
Great is derived from Einhard, and that the _Vita Caroli_ is one of the
most precious literary bequests of the early Middle Ages.

Here are some features of the picture of his master by Einhard which
have not been copied in the preceding pages:--

“This king, whose prudence and magnanimity surpassed that of all
contemporary princes, never shunned on account of toil, nor declined
on account of danger, any enterprise which had to be begun or carried
through to its end; but having learned to bear every burden as it came,
according to its true weight, he would neither yield under adversity,
nor in prosperity trust the flattering smiles of fortune.”

“He loved foreigners and took the greatest pains to entertain them, so
that their number often seemed a real burden, not only to the palace
but even to the realm. But he, on account of his greatness of soul,
refused to worry himself over this burden, thinking that even great
inconveniences were amply compensated by the praise of his liberality
and the reward of his renown.”

“His gait was firm, all the habit of his body manly: his voice clear,
but scarce corresponding to his stature: his health good, except that
during the last four years of his life he was often attacked by fever,
and at the last he limped with one foot. Moreover he guided himself
much more by his own fancy than by the counsel of his physicians,
whom he almost hated because they tried to persuade him to give up
roast meats, to which he was accustomed, and to take to boiled.[69]
He kept up diligently his exercises of riding and hunting, wherein he
followed the usage of his nation, for scarcely any other race equals
the Franks herein. He delighted, too, in the steam of nature-heated
baths, being a frequent and skilful swimmer, so that hardly any one
excelled him in this exercise. This was his reason for building his
palace at Aquisgranum where he spent the latter years of his life up to
his death. And not only did he invite his sons to the bath, but also
his friends and the nobles, sometimes even a crowd of henchmen and
bodyguards, so that at times as many as a hundred men or more would be
bathing there together.”

“He was temperate in food and drink, especially the latter, since
he held drunkenness in any man, but most of all in himself and his
friends, in the highest abhorrence. He was not so well able to abstain
from food, and used often to complain that the fasts [of the Church]
were hurtful to his body. He very seldom gave banquets, and those
only on the chief festivals, but then he invited a very large number
of guests. His daily supper was served with four courses only, except
the roast, which the huntsmen used to bring in on spits, and which he
partook of more willingly than of any other food. During supper he
listened either to music or to the reading of some book, generally
histories and accounts of the things done by the ancients. He delighted
also in the writings of St. Augustine, especially that one which is
entitled _De Civitate Dei_. He was so chary of drinking wine or liquor
of any kind, that he seldom drank more than three times at supper. In
summer, after his midday meal, he would take some fruit and would drink
once, and then laying aside his raiment and his shoes, just as he was
wont to do at night, he would rest for two or three hours. At night his
sleep used to be interrupted, not only by awaking but by rising from
his bed four or five times in one night. When he was having his shoes
or his clothes put on he used not only to admit his friends, but even
if the Count of the Palace informed him of some law suit which could
not be settled without his order, he would direct the litigants to
be at once introduced into his presence, and would hear the cause and
pronounce sentence exactly as if he were sitting on the judgment seat.
And not only so but he would also at the same time tell each official
or servant of the palace what duty he had to perform that day.”

He was full even to overflowing in his eloquence and could express all
his ideas with very great clearness. And not being satisfied with his
native language alone, he also gave much attention to the learning of
foreign tongues, among which was Latin, which he learned so perfectly
that he was accustomed to pray indifferently in that language or in his
own. Greek, however, he learned to understand better than to pronounce.
He was in truth so eloquent, that he seemed like a professional
rhetorician. In learning grammar he attended the lectures of Peter of
Pisa, an old man and a deacon; in other studies he had for his teacher
another deacon, Albinus, surnamed Alcuin, from Britain, a man of Saxon
race and extremely learned in all subjects, with whom he gave a great
deal of time and toil to the study of rhetoric and dialectic, and
pre-eminently to that of astronomy. He learned the art of computation,
and with wise earnestness most carefully investigated the courses of
the stars. He tried also to write, and for this purpose used to carry
about with him tablets and manuscripts [to copy] which were placed
under the pillows of his bed in order that he might at odd times
accustom his fingers to the shaping of the letters; but the attempt was
made too late in life and was not successful.

“He was a devout and zealous upholder of the Christian religion, with
which he had been imbued from infancy. He regularly attended the church
which he had built at Aquisgranum morning and evening, and also in
the hours of the night and at the time of sacrifice, as far as his
health permitted; and he took great pains that all the rites celebrated
therein should be performed with the greatest decorum, constantly
admonishing the ministers of the church that they should not allow
anything dirty or unbecoming to be brought thither or to remain within
it. He provided so large a supply of holy vessels of gold and silver
and of priestly vestments, that in celebrating the sacrifices there was
no necessity even for the doorkeepers, who were of the lowest grade of
ecclesiastics, to minister in their private dress. He took great pains
to reform the style of reading and singing, in both of which he was
highly accomplished, though he did not himself read in public nor sing,
save in a low voice and with the rest of the congregation.”

“He was very earnest in the maintenance of the poor and in almsgiving,
so that not only in his own country and kingdom did he thus labor,
but also beyond sea. To Syria, to Egypt, to Africa, to Jerusalem,
to Carthage, wherever he heard that there were Christians living in
poverty, he was wont to send money as a proof of his sympathy, and for
this reason especially did he seek the friendship of transmarine kings,
in order that some refreshment and relief might come to the Christians
under their rule. But before all other sacred and venerable places he
reverenced the church of St. Peter at Rome, and in its treasure chamber
great store of wealth, in gold, silver, and precious stones was piled
up by him. Many gifts, past counting, were sent by him to the popes,
and through the whole of his reign no object was dearer to his heart
than that the city of Rome by his care and toil should enjoy its old
pre-eminence, and that the church of St. Peter should not only by his
aid be safely guarded, but also by his resources should be adorned and
enriched beyond all other churches. Yet though he esteemed that city
so highly, in all the forty-seven years of his reign he went but four
times thither to pay his vows and offer up his supplications.”

Amid such interests and such friendships the later years of Charles’s
life glided away, comparatively little disturbed by the clash of arms,
since his two elder sons Charles and Pippin, brave and capable men both
of them, now relieved him of most of the drudgery of war. It is hinted
that there were some occasions of variance between the two brothers,
but it is not certain that Pippin the Hunchback is not the person here
alluded to as at enmity with the younger Charles; and the difference,
whatever it may have been, is said to have been removed by the
mediation of St. Goar, whose cell on the banks of the Rhine was visited
by the two princes.

In 806, at the Villa Theodonis, Charles, in the presence of a great
assembly of his nobles, made a formal division of his dominions
between his three sons. Pippin was to have Italy, or as it was called,
Langobardia, with Bavaria and Germany south of the Danube, also the
subject realms of the Avars and southern Sclaves. Louis was to have
Aquitaine, Provence, and the greater part of Burgundy. All the rest,
that is Neustria, Austrasia, the remainder of Burgundy, and Germany
north of the Danube was to go to Charles, who was probably to have some
sort of pre-eminence over his brothers, though nothing was expressly
said as to the imperial title. The division was so ordered that each
brother had access to the dominions of the other two, and both Charles
and Louis were earnestly enjoined to go to the help of Pippin--then
apparently the most exposed to hostile attack--if he should require
their help in Italy. Elaborate arrangements were also made as to the
succession, in case of the death of any of the brothers.

Unhappily all these dispositions proved futile. The year 810, in which
Godofrid of Denmark died, and also Haroun’s elephant Abu-l-Abbas, was
in other ways a sore year for Charles. On 6th June his eldest daughter
Hrotrud, once the affianced bride of the Eastern Cæsar, died, unmarried
but leaving an illegitimate son, Louis, who afterwards became Abbot
of St. Denis. Ere Charles had time to recover from this blow came the
tidings that Pippin, the young King of Italy, had died on 8th July,
possibly (but this is only a conjecture) of some malady contracted
during his campaign of many months among the lagunes of Venice.

So, though Pippin left a son, the lad Bernhard, who, if things went
well with him, might hope to inherit his father’s kingdom, already
a breach was made in Charles’s arrangements for the succession to
his dominions. But a yet heavier blow fell upon him next year (4th
December, 811), when his eldest son Charles, that one of all his
children who most resembled him in aptitude for war and government,
in strength of body and manly beauty, was torn from him by death.
Now, of all his sons, there was only left that pathetically devout
and incapable figure who is known to posterity as Louis the Pious or
Louis the Debonnair, but whose piety and whose good nature were alike
to prove disastrous when he should be called upon to guide with his
nerveless hands the fiery steeds which had drawn his father’s car of

However, there was no other heir available. In September, 813, a
_generalis conventus_ was held at Aachen, at which, after taking
the advice of his nobles, Charles placed the imperial crown on the
head of Louis, and ordered him to be called Imperator and Augustus,
thereby designating him as his successor, but not, as it should seem,
admitting him to a present participation in his power. With that keen
insight into character which Charles undoubtedly possessed, he must
have perceived the weakness of his son’s disposition, and fears for
the future of the empire which he had built up with so much toil and
difficulty probably saddened his last days.

The great emperor had now entered on the eighth decade of his life. His
health was apparently failing and there were also signs and portents
betokening the approaching end, which, with proper regard to classical
precedent, are duly recorded by Einhard. For the last three years of
his life there was an unusually large number of eclipses of the sun and
moon. A big spot on the sun was observed for seven days. The colonnade
between the church and palace at Aachen, constructed with great labor,
fell in sudden ruin on Ascension-day. The great bridge over the Rhine
at Mainz, which had been ten years in building, and for which Einhard
himself had acted as clerk of the works, was burnt to the water’s edge
in three hours. Then, in his last expedition against Danish Godofrid
(but that was as far back as 810), a fiery torch had been seen to
fall from heaven, in a clear sky, on the sinister side, and Charles’s
horse at the same moment falling heavily had thrown his master to the
ground with such violence that the clasp of his cloak was broken, his
sword-belt burst, and the spear which he held in his hand was hurled
forwards twenty feet or more. Moreover there were crackings of the
palace-ceilings; the golden apple which was on the roof of the church
was struck by lightning and thrown on to the roof of the archbishop’s
palace hard by. In the inscription which ran round the interior of the
dome, and which contained the words KAROLVS PRINCEPS, the letters of
the second word, only a few months before Charles’s death, faded and
became invisible. All these signs convinced thoughtful persons that an
old man of more than seventy, who had led a hard and strenuous life,
and who was bowed by many recent sorrows, had not long to live.

In the year 811, the emperor, feeling that the end was not far
off, had given elaborate orders as to the disposal of his personal
property, consisting of gold, silver, and precious stones. The
details, though curious, need not be quoted here. It is sufficient
to say that only one-twelfth of the whole was to be divided among
his children and grand-children. About two-thirds were to be divided
among the ecclesiastics of twenty-one chief cities in his dominions.
The remainder was for his servants and the poor. It is interesting to
observe that the division of the property was to be completed “after
his death or voluntary renunciation of the things of this world.” There
was therefore a possibility that the first Emperor Charles might have
anticipated the fifth in retiring from a palace into a convent. Also
we note with interest a square silver table containing a plan of the
city of Constantinople, which was to be sent as a gift to St. Peter’s
at Rome; a round one containing a similar plan of Rome, which was to
be sent to the Archbishop of Ravenna; and a third, “far surpassing the
others in weight of metal and beauty of workmanship, which consisted of
three spheres linked together, and which embraced a plan of the whole
world with delicate and minute delineation,” and which was to be sold
for the benefit of the residuary legatees and the poor.

At last the time came for all these dispositions to take effect. After
the great assembly in which the imperial diadem was placed on the head
of Louis of Aquitaine (Sept. 813), Charles, though in feeble health,
went on one of his usual hunting expeditions in the neighborhood of
Aachen. The autumn was thus passed, and at the beginning of November
he returned to the palace to winter there. In January (814) he was
attacked by a severe fever and took to his bed. According to his usual
custom he thought to subdue the fever by fasting, but pleurisy was
added to the fever, and in his reduced state he had no power to grapple
with the disease. After partaking of the Communion he departed this
life at nine in the morning of the 28th of January, 814. He was then in
the seventy-second year of his age, and the forty-seventh of his reign.
On the day of his death he was buried in his own church of St. Mary’s
amidst the lamentations of his people. On a gilded arch above his tomb
was inscribed this epitaph: “Under this tombstone is laid the body of
Charles, the great and orthodox Emperor, who gloriously enlarged the
kingdom of the Franks and reigned prosperously for 47 years (_sic_).
He died, a septuagenarian, in the year of our Lord 814, in the 7th
Indiction on the 5th day before the Kalends of February.”[71]

Before many years had passed, the adjective _Magnus_ was universally
affixed by popular usage to the name _Carolus_: and 351 years after his
death he received the honor of canonization from the Roman Church.



No ruler for many centuries so powerfully impressed the imagination
of western Europe as the first Frankish Emperor of Rome. The vast
cycle of romantic epic poetry which gathered round the name of
Charlemagne, the stories of his wars with the Infidels, his expeditions
to Constantinople and Jerusalem, his Twelve Peers of France, the
friendship of Roland and Oliver and the treachery of Ganelon--all this
is of matchless interest in the history of the development of mediæval
literature, but of course adds nothing to our knowledge of the real
Charles of history, since these romances were confessedly the work of
wandering minstrels and took no definite shape till at least three
centuries after the death of Charlemagne.

In this concluding chapter I propose very briefly to enumerate some of
the chief traces of the great emperor’s forming hand on the western
church, on Literature, on Laws, and on the State-system of Europe.

I. Theologically, Charles’s chief performances were the condemnation
of the Adoptianist heresy[72] of Felix of Urgel by the Council of
Frankfurt (794): the condemnation of the adoration of images by the
same Council; and the addition to the Nicene Creed of the celebrated
words “Filioque,” which asserted that the Holy Spirit “proceedeth from
the Father _and the Son_.” In these two last performances Charles acted
more or less in opposition to the advice and judgment of the pope, and
the addition to the Creed was one of the causes which led to the schism
between the eastern and western churches, and which have hitherto
frustrated all schemes for their reunion.

In the government of the church Charles all through his reign took
the keenest interest, and a large--as most modern readers would
think a disproportionate--part of his Capitularies is dedicated to
this subject. Speaking generally, it may be said that he strove,
as his father before him had striven, to subdue the anarchy that
had disgraced the churches of Gaul under the Merovingian kings. He
insisted on the monks and the canonical priests living according to
the rules which they professed: he discouraged the manufacture of new
saints, the erection of new oratories, the worship of new archangels
other than the well-known three, Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael. He
earnestly exhorted the bishops to work in harmony with the counts for
the maintenance of the public peace. While not slow to condemn the
faults of the episcopacy he supported their authority against mutinous
priests: and pre-eminently by the example which he set to Gaul in the
powerful and well-compacted hierarchy which he established in Germany
he strengthened the aristocratic constitution of the church under
the rule of its bishops. At the same time there can be no doubt that
by his close relations with the Roman Pontiff and by the temporal
sovereignty which he bestowed upon him, he contributed, consciously or
unconsciously, to the ultimate transformation of the western church
into an absolute monarchy under the headship of the pope. That Charles,
with all his zeal for the welfare of the church, was not blind to the
faults of the churchmen of his day is shown by the remarkable series of
questions--possibly drawn up from his dictation by Einhard--which are
contained in a Capitulary of 811 written three years before his death:

“We wish to ask the ecclesiastics themselves, and those who have not
only to learn but to teach out of the Holy Scriptures, who are they to
whom the Apostle says, ‘Be ye imitators of me’; or who is that about
whom the same Apostle says, ‘No man that warreth entangleth himself
with the business of this world’: in other words, how the Apostle is to
be imitated, or how he (the ecclesiastic) wars for God?”

“Further, we must beg of them that they will truly show us what is this
‘renouncing of the world’, which is spoken of by them: or how we can
distinguish those who renounce the world from those who still follow
it, whether it consists in anything more than this, that they do not
bear arms and are not publicly married?”

“We must also inquire if that man has relinquished the world who is
daily laboring to increase his possessions in every manner and by every
artifice, by sweet persuasions about the blessedness of heaven and by
terrible threats about the punishments of hell; who uses the name of
God or of some saint to despoil simpler and less learned folk, whether
rich or poor, of their property, to deprive the lawful heirs of their
inheritance, and thus to drive many through sheer destitution to a life
of robbery and crime which they would otherwise never have embraced?”

Several more questions of an equally searching character are contained
in this remarkable Capitulary.

II. If doubts may arise in some minds how far Charles’s ecclesiastical
policy was of permanent benefit to the human race, no such doubts can
be felt as to his patronage of literature and science. Herein he takes
a foremost place among the benefactors of humanity, as a man who,
himself imperfectly educated, knew how to value education in others;
as one who, amid the manifold harassing cares of government and of
war, could find leisure for that friendly intercourse with learned men
which far more than his generous material gifts cheered them on in
their arduous and difficult work; and as the ruler to whom more perhaps
than to any other single individual we owe the fact that the precious
literary inheritance of Greece and Rome has not been altogether lost
to the human race. Every student of the history of the texts of the
classical authors knows how many of our best MSS. date from the ninth
century, the result unquestionably of the impulse given by Charles
and his learned courtiers to classical studies. It is noticeable also
that this reign constitutes an important era in Paleography, the clear
and beautiful “minuscule”[73] of the Irish scribes being generally
substituted for the sprawling and uncouth characters which had gone
by the name of Langobardic. In one of his Capitularies Charles calls
the attention of his clergy to the necessity for careful editing of
the Prayer-books; otherwise those who desire to pray rightly will pray
amiss. He enjoins them not to suffer boys to corrupt the sacred text
either in writing or reading. If they require a new gospel, missal, or
psalter, let it be copied with the utmost care by men of full age. In
another Capitulary, he expresses his displeasure that some priests,
who were poor when they were ordained, have grown rich out of the
church’s treasures, acquiring for themselves lands and slaves, but not
purchasing books or sacred vessels for the church’s use.

Something has already been said as to the Academy in Charles’s palace,
which was apparently founded on the basis of a court-school established
in his father’s lifetime but became a much more important institution
in his own. Probably it was then transformed from a school for
children into an Academy for learned men, in the sense in which the
word has been used at Athens, Florence, and Paris. Alcuin, after his
departure from court, founded a school at Tours, which acquired great
fame; and we hear of schools also at Utrecht, Fulda, Würzburg, and
elsewhere. Doubtless, most of these schools were primarily theological
seminaries, but as we have seen in the case of Alcuin, a good deal
of classical literature and mathematical science was, at any rate in
some schools, taught alongside of the correct rendering of the church

The Monk of St. Gall (who wrote, as we have seen, two generations after
Charlemagne, and whose stories we therefore accept with some reserve)
gives us an interesting and amusing picture of one of the schools
under Charles’s patronage. After giving a legendary and inaccurate
account of the arrival of two Irish scholars in Gaul, named Alcuin and
Clement, he goes on to say that Charles persuaded Clement to settle in
Gaul, and sent him a number of boys, sons of nobles, of middle-class
men and of peasants, to be taught by him, while they were lodged
and boarded at the king’s charges. After a long time he returned to
Gaul, and ordered these lads to be brought into his presence, and to
bring before him letters and poems of their own composition. The boys
sprung from the middle and lower classes offered compositions which
were “beyond all expectation sweetened with the seasoning of wisdom,”
but the productions of the young nobility were “tepid, and absolutely
idiotic.” Hereupon the king, as it were, anticipating the Last
Judgment, set the industrious lads on his right hand and the idlers
on his left. He addressed the former with words of encouragement, “I
thank you, my sons, for the zeal with which you have attended to my
commands. Only go on as you have begun, and I will give you splendid
bishoprics and abbacies, and you shall be ever honorable in my eyes.”
But to those on his left hand he turned with angry eyes and frowning
brow, and addressed them in a voice of thunder, “You young nobles, you
dainty and beautiful youths, who have presumed upon your birth and
your possessions to despise mine orders, and have taken no care for
my renown; you have neglected the study of literature, while you have
given yourselves over to luxury and idleness, or to games and foolish
athletics.” Then, raising his august head and unconquered right hand
towards heaven, he swore a solemn oath, “By the King of Heaven, I care
nothing for your noble birth and your handsome faces, let others prize
them as they may. Know this for certain, that unless ye give earnest
heed to your studies, and recover the ground lost by your negligence,
ye shall never receive any favor at the hand of King Charles.”

There was one branch of learning in which Charles was evidently not
enough helped by his friends of the classical revival, and in which
one cannot help wishing that his judgment had prevailed over theirs.
Einhard tells us that he reduced to writing and committed to memory
“those most ancient songs of the barbarians in which the actions of the
kings of old and their wars were chanted.” Would that these precious
relics of the dim Teutonic fore-world had been thought worthy of
preservation by Alcuin and his disciples!

He also began to compose a grammar of his native speech; he gave names
to the winds blowing from twelve different quarters, whereas previously
men had named but four; and he gave Teutonic instead of Latin names to
the twelve months of the year. They were--for January, _Wintarmanoth_;
February, _Hornung_; March, _Lentzinmanoth_; April, _Ostarmanoth_;
May, _Winnemanoth_; June, _Brachmanoth_; July, _Hewimanoth_; August,
_Aranmanoth_; September, _Witumanoth_; October, _Windumemanoth_;
November, _Herbistmanoth_; December, _Heilagmanoth_.

III. It is of course impossible to deal with more than one or two of
the most important products of Charles’s legislative and administrative

1. In the first place, we have to remark that Charles was not in
any sense like Justinian or Napoleon, a codifier of laws. On the
contrary, the title chosen by him after his capture of Pavia, “Rex
Langobardorum,” indicates the general character of his policy, which
was to leave the Lombards under Lombard law, the Romans under Roman
law; even the Saxons, if they would only accept Christianity, to some
extent under Saxon institutions. To turn all the various nationalities
over which he ruled into Ripuarian Franks was by no means the object
of the conqueror; on the contrary, so long as they loyally obeyed the
great central government they might keep their own laws, customs, and
language unaltered. As this principle applied not only to tribes and
races of men, but also to individuals, we find ourselves in presence
of that most peculiar phenomenon of the early Middle Ages which is
known as the system of “personal law.” In our modern society, if the
citizen of one country goes to reside in the territory of another
civilized and well-ordered country, he is bound to conform to the laws
of that country. Where this rule does not prevail (as in the case of
the rights secured by the “capitulations” to Europeans dwelling in
Turkey or Morocco) it is a distinct sign that we are in the presence of
a barbarous law to which the more civilized nations will not submit.
But quite different from this was the conception of law in the ninth
century under Charles the Great and his successors. Then, every man,
according to his nationality, or even his profession,--according as he
was Frank or Lombard, Alaman or Bavarian, Goth or Roman, layman or
ecclesiastic,--carried, so to speak, his own legal atmosphere about
with him, and might always claim to be judged _secundum legem patriæ
suæ_.[74] Thus, according to an often-quoted passage, “so great was
the diversity of laws that you would often meet with it, not only in
countries or cities, but even in single houses. For it would often
happen that five men would be sitting or walking together, not one of
whom would have the same law with any other.”

But though Charles made no attempt, and apparently had no desire, to
reduce all the laws of his subjects to one common denominator, he had
schemes for improving, and even to some extent harmonizing, the several
national codes which he found in existence. But these schemes were only
imperfectly realized. As Einhard says, “After his assumption of the
imperial title, as he perceived that many things were lacking in the
laws of his people (for the Franks have two systems of law, in many
places very diverse from one another), he thought to add those things
which were wanting, to reconcile discrepancies, and to correct what
was bad and ill expressed. But of all this naught was accomplished
by him, save that he added a few chapters, and those imperfect ones,
to the laws [of the Salians, Ripuarians, and Bavarians]. All the
legal customs, however, that were not already written, of the various
nations under his dominion, he caused to be taken down and committed to

While Charles’s new legislation was in general of an enlightened
and civilized character, a modern reader is surprised and pained by
the prominence which he gives, or allows, to those barbarous and
superstitious modes of determining doubtful causes--wager of battle,
ordeal by the cross, and ordeal by the hot ploughshares. As to the
first of these especially, the language of the Capitularies seems
to show a retrogression from the wise distrust of that manner of
arriving at truth expressed half a century earlier by the Lombard king,

2. A question which we cannot help asking, though it hardly admits of
an answer, is “What was Charles’s relation to that feudal system which,
so soon after his death, prevailed throughout his empire, and which so
quickly destroyed its unity?” The growth of that system was so gradual,
and it was due to such various causes, that no one man can be regarded
as its author, hardly even to any great extent as its modifier. It
was not known to early Merovingian times; its origin appears to be
nearly contemporaneous with that of the power of the Arnulfing mayors
of the palace; it must certainly have been spreading more widely and
striking deeper roots all through the reign of Charlemagne, and yet we
can hardly attribute either to him or to his ancestors any distinct
share in its establishment. It was, so to speak, “in the air,” even
as democracy, trades’ unions, socialism, and similar ideas are in the
air of the nineteenth century. Feudalism apparently had to be, and it
“sprang and grew up, one knoweth not how.”

One of the clearest allusions to the growing feudalism of society is
contained in a Capitulary of Charles issued the year before his death,
in which it is ordained that no man shall be allowed to renounce his
dependence on a feudal superior after he has received any benefit from
him, except in one of four cases--if the lord have sought to slay
his vassal, or have struck him with a stick, or have endeavored to
dishonor his wife or daughter, or to take away his inheritance. In an
expanded version of the same decree a fifth cause of renunciation is
admitted--if the lord have failed to give to the vassal that protection
which he promised when the vassal put his hands in the lord’s, and
“commended” himself to his guardianship. Other allusions to the same
system are to be found in the numerous Capitularies in which Charles
urges the repeated complaint that the vassals of the Crown are either
endeavoring to turn their _beneficia_ into _allodia_ or, if possessing
property of both kinds,--a _beneficium_ under the Crown and an
_allodium_ by purchase or inheritance from their fathers,--are starving
and despoiling the royal _beneficium_ for the benefit of their own

3. An institution which was intended to check these and similar
irregularities, and generally to uphold the imperial authority
and the rights of the humbler classes against the encroachments
of the territorial aristocracy, was the peculiarly Carolingian
institution of _missi dominici_, or (as we may translate the words)
“imperial commissioners.” These men may be likened to the emperor’s
staff-officers, bearing his orders to distant regions, and everywhere,
as his representatives, carrying on his ceaseless campaign against
oppression and anarchy. The pivot of provincial government was still,
as it had been in Merovingian times, the Frankish _comes_ or count,
who had his headquarters generally in one of the old Roman cities,
and governed from thence a district which was of varying extent, but
which may be fairly taken as equivalent to an English county. Under
him were the _centenarii_, who, originally rulers of that little tract
of country known as the Hundred, now had a somewhat wider scope,
and acted probably as _vicarii_ or representatives of the count
throughout the district subject to his jurisdiction. These governors,
especially the count, were doubtless generally men of wealth and great
local influence. They had not yet succeeded in making their offices
hereditary and transmitting the countship, as a title of nobility is
now transmitted, from father to son. The strong hand of the central
government prevented this change from taking place in Charles’s day,
but it, too, like so much else that had a feudal tendency, was “in
the air”; and it may have been partly in order to guard against this
tendency and to keep his counts merely life-governors that Charles
devised his institution of _missi_.

But a nobler and more beneficial object aimed at was to ensure that
justice should be “truly and indifferently administered” to both rich
and poor, to the strong and to the defenceless. It is interesting in
this connection to observe what was the so-called “eight-fold ban”
proclaimed by the Frankish legislator. Any one who (1) dishonored Holy
Church; (2) or acted unjustly against widows; (3) or against orphans;
(4) or against poor men who were unable to defend themselves; (5) or
carried off a free-born woman against the will of her parents; (6)
or set on fire another man’s house or stable; (7) or who committed
_harizhut_--that is to say, who broke open by violence another man’s
house, door, or enclosure; (8) or who when summoned did not go forth
against the enemy, came under the king’s _ban_, and was liable to pay
for each offence sixty solidi (£36).[75] Here we see that three of the
specified offences were precisely those which a powerful local count or
_centenarius_ would be tempted to commit against the humbler suitors in
his court, and which it would be the business of a _missus dominicus_
to discover and report to his lord.

The _missi_ had, however, a wide range of duties beyond the mere
control and correction of unjust judges. It was theirs to enforce the
rights of the royal treasury, to administer the oath of allegiance to
the inhabitants of a district, to inquire into any cases of wrongful
appropriation of church property, to hunt down robbers, to report upon
the morals of bishops, to see that monks lived according to the rule of
their order. Sometimes they had to command armies (the brave Gerold of
Bavaria was such a _missus_) and to hold _placita_ in the name of the
king. Of course the choice of a person to act as _missus_ would largely
depend on the nature of the duties that he had to perform: a soldier
for the command of armies or an ecclesiastic for the inspection of
monasteries. As Charles, in his embassies to foreign courts, was fond
of combining the two vocations, and sending a stout layman and a subtle
ecclesiastic together to represent him at Cordova or Constantinople,
so he may often have duplicated these internal embassies, these roving
commissions, to inquire into the abuses of authority in his own domains.

We have, in one of Charles’s later Capitularies, an admirable
exhortation which, though put forth in the name of the _missi_, surely
came from the emperor’s own robust intellect:--“Take care,” the _missi_
say to the count whose district they are about to visit, “that neither
you nor any of your officers are so evil disposed as to say ‘Hush!
hush! say nothing about that matter till those _missi_ have passed by,
and afterwards we will settle it quietly among ourselves.’ Do not so
deny or even postpone the administration of justice; but rather give
diligence that justice may be done in the case before we arrive.”

The institution of _missi dominici_ served its purpose for a time,
but proved to be only a temporary expedient. There was an increasing
difficulty in finding suitable men for this delicate charge, which
required in those who had to execute it both strength and sympathy,
an independent position, and willingness to listen to the cry of the
humble. Even already in the lifetime of Charles there was a visible
danger that the _missus_ might become another oppressor as burdensome
to the common people as any of the counts whom he was appointed to
superintend. And after all, the _missus_ could only transmit to the
distant regions of the empire as much power as he received from its
centre. Under the feeble Louis the Pious, his wrangling sons and
his inept grandsons, the institution grew ever weaker and weaker.
Admirable instructions for the guidance of the _missi_ were drawn up at
headquarters, but there was no power to enforce them. With the collapse
of the Carolingian dynasty towards the close of the ninth century the
_missi dominici_ disappear from view.

4. Another institution was perhaps due to Charles’s own personal
initiative; at any rate it was introduced at the outset of his reign,
and soon spread widely through his dominions. It was that of the
_scabini_, whose functions recall to us sometimes those of our justices
of the peace, sometimes those of our grand-jurors, and sometimes those
of our ordinary jurors. Chosen for life, out of the free, but not
probably out of the powerful classes, men of respectable character and
unstained by crime, they had, besides other functions, pre-eminently
that of acting as assessors to the _comes_ or to the _centenarius_ in
his court of justice. Seven was the regular number that should be
present at a trial, though sometimes fewer were allowed to decide.
As in all the earlier stages of the development of the jury system,
they were at least as much witnesses as judges--their own knowledge
or common report forming the chief ground of their decision. It is
not clear whether their verdict was necessarily unanimous, but it
seems certain that the decision was considered to be theirs, and not
that of the presiding functionary, whether _comes_, _vicarius_, or
_centenarius_. It was, moreover, final; for, as one of the Capitularies
distinctly says, “After the _scabini_ have condemned a man as a robber,
it is not lawful for either the _comes_ or the _vicarius_ to grant him

The _scabini_ were expected to be present at the meetings of the
county--probably also, to some extent, at those of the nation, and they
joined in the assent which was there given to any new Capitularies that
were promulgated by the emperor. It is easy to see how, both in their
judicial and in their legislative capacity, the _scabini_ may have
acted as a useful check on the lawless encroachments of the counts.
There was probably in this institution a germ which, had the emperors
remained mighty, would have limited the power of the aristocracy, and
have formed in time a democratic basis upon which a strong and stable
monarchy might have been erected.

IV. Lastly, a few words must be said as to the permanent results of
Charles’s life and work on the state-system of Europe. In endeavoring
to appraise them let us keep our minds open to the consideration not
only of that which actually was, but also of that which might have
been, had the descendants of Charles been as able men as himself and
his progenitors.

The three great political events of Charles’s reign were his conquest
of Italy, his consolidation of the Frankish kingdom, and his assumption
of the imperial title.

1. His conduct towards the vanquished Lombards was, on the whole,
generous and statesmanlike. By assuming the title of King of the
Lombards he showed that it was not his object to destroy the
nationality of the countrymen of Alboin, nor to fuse them into one
people with the Franks. Had his son Pippin lived and transmitted his
sceptre to his descendants, there might possibly have been founded a
kingdom of Italy, strong, patriotic, and enduring. In that event some
of the glorious fruits of art and literature which were ripened in the
independent Italian republics of the Middle Ages might never have been
brought forth, but the Italians, though a less artistic people, would
have been spared much bloodshed and many despairs.

But we can only say that this was a possible contingency. By the policy
(inherited from his father) which he pursued towards the papal see,
Charles called into existence a power which would probably always
have been fatal to the unity and freedom of Italy. That wedge of
Church-Dominions thrust in between the north and south would always
tend to keep Lombardy and Tuscany apart from Spoleto and Benevento;
and the endless wrangle between Pope and King would perhaps have been
renewed even as in the days of the Lombards. The descendants of the
pacific and God-crowned king would then have become “unutterable”
and the “not-to-be-mentioned” Franks, and peace and unity would have
been as far from the fated land as they have been in very deed for a
thousand years.

2. Charles’s greatest work, as has been once or twice hinted in the
course of the preceding narrative, was his extension and consolidation
of the Frankish kingdom. One cannot see that he did much for what
we now call France, but his work east of the Rhine was splendidly
successful. Converting the Saxons,--a triumph of civilization, however
barbarous were the methods employed,--subduing the rebellious
Bavarians, keeping the Danes and the Sclavonic tribes on his eastern
border in check, and utterly crushing the Avars, he gave the Teutonic
race that position of supremacy in Central Europe which, whatever may
have been the ebb and flow of Teutonism in later centuries, it has
never been forced to surrender, and which, with all its faults, has
been a blessing to Europe.

3. As to the assumption of the imperial title, it is much more
difficult to speak with confidence. We have seen reason to think
that Charles himself was only half persuaded of its expediency. It
was a noble idea, this revival of the old world-wide empire and its
conversion into a _Civitas Dei_, the realized dream of St. Augustine.
But none knew better than the monarch himself how far his empire came
short of these grand prophetic visions; and profounder scholars than
Alcuin could have told him how little it had really in common with the
state which was ruled by Augustus or by Trajan. That empire had sprung
out of a democratic republic, and retained for centuries something of
that resistless energy which the consciousness of self-government gives
to a brave and patient people. Charles’s empire was cradled, not in
the city but in the forest; its essential principle was the loyalty
of henchmen to their chief; it was already permeated by the spirit of
feudalism, and between feudalism and any true reproduction of the
_Imperium Romanum_ there could be no abiding union.

I need not here allude to the divergence in language, customs and
modes of thought between the various nationalities which composed the
emperor’s dominions. The mutual antagonism of nations and languages was
not so strong in the Middle Ages as it has been in our own day, and
possibly a succession of able rulers might have kept the two peoples,
who in their utterly different languages swore in 842 the great oath of
Strasburg,[76] still one. But the spirit of feudalism was more fatal to
the unity of the empire than these differences of race and language.
The mediæval emperor was perpetually finding himself overtopped by one
or other of his nominal vassals, and history has few more pitiable
spectacles than some that were presented by the rulers of the Holy
Roman Empire--men bearing the great names of Cæsar and Augustus--tossed
helplessly to and fro on the waves of European politics, the
laughing-stock of their own barons and marquises, and often unable to
provide for the ordinary expenses of their households.

But all this belongs to the story of the Middle Ages, not to the
life of the founder of the empire. It would be absurd to say that
he could have foreseen all the weak points of the great, and on the
whole beneficent, institution which he bestowed on Western Europe. And
whatever estimate we may form of the good or the evil which resulted
from the great event of the eight hundredth Christmas day, none will
deny that the whole history of Europe for at least seven hundred years
was profoundly modified by the life and mighty deeds of Charles the



               St. Arnulf, 582–640;      Pippin “of Landin,” = Itta (?)
            Bishop of Metz, 612–627 (?)       585–639.       | 591–651.
                        |                                    |
             +----------+-----------+         +---------+----+-----+
             |                      |         |         |          |
     Chlodulf, 599–696;     Adelgisel or =  Becga    Grimwald   Gertrude,
  Bishop of Metz, 656–696.  Ansegisel,   | 615–694.    †658.    Abbess of
                            605–685 (?)  |              |       Nivelles,
                                         |              |       625–659.
                               +---------+              |
                               |           Childebert proclaimed king by
                               |                 his father, 657.
          Plectrudis = Pippin “of Heristal,” = Alphaida
                     |      631–714.         ·
     +----------+----+                       ·
     |          |                            ·
   Drogo,   Grimwald,   Hrotrudis = Charles Martel, = Swanahild.
   †708.      †714.               |     686–741.    |
                |                 |                 |
            Theudwald.            |           Grifo, †753.
       |               |
    Carloman,      PIPPIN I.,  = Bertrada, †783.
    713–755;       _b._ 714;   |
  abdicated 747.   crowned     |
                   752, †768.  |
                |                               |
  CHARLES the Great, _b._ 742 (?),    CARLOMAN, _b._ 751,
    king 768, Emperor 800, †814.        king 768, †771.

_Note._--Many of the above dates are conjectural.



                                            771           783                 795
  Himiltrud =  Desiderata     =   Hildegard  = CHARLES     =  Fastrada, †794.  =  Liutgard, †800.
            |  daughter of         _b._ 759, | the Great,  |
     +------+  DESIDERIVS           †783.    | 742–814.    |
     |         King of the                   |             +-----------------+
     |         Lombards,                     |             |                 |
  Pippin the   divorced 771.                 |        Theoderada        Hiltrud, Abbess
  Hunchback.                                 |   Abbess of Argenteuil.   of Farmoutier.
     |         |            |             |            |        |           |         |         |
  CHARLES,  PIPPIN        LOUIS       Lothair,      Hrotrud,  Gisela,    Adelheid,   Bertha  Hildegard,
  772–811.  or Carloman,  the Pious,  twin-brother  772–810.  _b._ 781.  died young.         born and
            777–810.      or the      of Louis,                                              died 783.
                          Debonnair,  born and
                          778–840.    died 778.


  Mathalgard (?) = Gersvindis, =  CHARLES   =  Regina  =  Adelinda
           +-----+  a Saxon.   |  the Great |          +----------------------------+
           |                   |            |                                       |
           |             +---+-+-+---+      +-------+---------+                     |
        Rothaid          |   |   |   |      |                 |                     |
                         Two daughters     Hugo, Abbot of    Drogo, Archbishop   Theodoric, _b._
                         and three sons.   St. Quentin, and  of Metz,            810. Made an
                         The youngest      Chancellor of     Archchaplain.       ecclesiastic,
                         Theodoric, †807.  Louis I. †844.    †855.               818.


[1] In the headings of this book, the form of the name _Charlemagne_ is
used throughout, in preference to the English form _Charles the Great_,
or _Charles I._ (which suggests Charles Stuart), or the Latin form
_Carolus Magnus_, or the grotesque combination of the Teutonic _Karl_
with the Latin _Magnus_. The editor does not overlook the difficulties
of the case. The word _Charlemagne_ is conceded to be misleading
because of its French form. It is natural to infer that the man so
named was peculiarly connected with the French people or race. The
fact is otherwise; for the illustrious leader of the Franks was much
nearer akin to the Germanic and Teutonic peoples, than to the Gallic or
French. The reader should therefore keep it in mind that Charlemagne
was not a Frenchman, nor did he belong to the predecessors of the
French, despite the form of his name. He was not king of the French,
but “king of the _Franks_” as the author says above. And “with all his
wide, far-reaching schemes, he remained, it would seem, at heart a ...
Frank ... and we may conjecture that Neustria was to him as little of
a homeland as Aquitaine or even Italy.” (See below, p. 280.) For the
extent of his kingdom, which centred about the Rhine, not the Seine,
see below, pp. 11, 12.

On the other hand, it may be said in favor of the form _Charlemagne_
that it has not only obtained common usage, but it has the authority of
Milton, Scott, and other English writers, while in the United States
it is to-day the common, almost exclusive form. This seems to be
sufficient reason for its adoption.

[2] The dates of these landmarks are as follows:--

    Constantinople was founded 330, A.D.;

    Alaric captured Rome 410;

    The Hegira, or Flight, of Mohammed occurred 622;

    America was discovered 1492;

    The Reformation began with Luther’s nailing his 95 theses to the
        door of the church at Wittenberg in 1517;

    And the great French Revolution occurred between 1789 and 1795,
        the dreadful climax being in 1793.

[3] New Rome was Constantinople, the seat of the Eastern, or Byzantine

[4] Justinian, Byzantine emperor from 527 to 565, is chiefly known to
fame by his important work, the codification of the Roman laws. It was
his generals Belisareus and Narses who destroyed the Vandal kingdom in
Africa and the Ostragothic kingdom in Italy, restoring those countries
to the Byzantine sway. In 550 several Spanish cities both on the
Mediterranean and on the Atlantic, were ceded to Justinian, and they
did not shake off the yoke until 620: so that for 70 years Rome had the
empty honor of numbering Spain among her provinces.

[5] One of the fifteen decisive battles of the world was that fought in
the year 732, the battle-field being between the cities of Tours and
Poitiers, France. By English historians it is usually called the battle
of Tours, while the French call it Poitiers. It was here that Charles
Martel checked the tide of the Moorish invasion into Europe.

[6] The Avars were a Tartar tribe, one branch of which settled on the
Danube about the year 555. They served in Justinian’s army, helped the
Lombards to overturn the Gepidæ, conquered Pannonia, subdued Dalmatia,
and frequently devastated large tracts of Germany and Italy. They were
subdued by Charlemagne and were well nigh destroyed by the Moravians
and again by the Magyars. Early in the 9th century they disappeared
from history.

[7] Clovis, like other names of early date, may be variously spelled.
The common German form is Chlodwig, from whence comes the German name
Ludwig. Clovis is allied to the Latin Ludovicus, and from it are
derived the French Louis and the English Lewis.

[8] The Salian Franks took their name from the river Sala, now the
Yssel. These inhabited the districts of the lower Rhine, Meuse, and

[9] Syagrius, king of the Burgundians and Franks, was the last Roman
governor of Gaul. He inherited the city and diocese of Soissons, while
“Rheims and Troyes, Beauvais and Amiens, would naturally submit to”
him. He was defeated by Clovis in 486.

[10] The origin of the word Neustria is uncertain. It was certainly an
antonym of Austrasia, which means the eastern kingdom. The opposite
of this would be Ouestrasia, or western kingdom; but owing to the
similarity of pronunciation the first syllable was changed to its later
form which may have been derived from _neuf_, or new.

[11] The _gau_ was a division of the old Germanic state. The word
is preserved in such terminations as that of Oberammergau, Glogau,
Bardengau, etc.

[12] The Merovingian kingdom took its name from the grandfather of
Clovis: Merwig, or Merowig: the Latin form being Merovœus, and the
French Mérovée.

[13] The Anglo-Saxon word _witan_ means wise man. The council called
the Witenagemot was the assembly of the king, nobles, and clergy, a
precursor of the parliament of later years, but with greater powers
than those ever exercised by parliament.

[14] Gregory was born in Auvergne, France, about 540, and became bishop
of Tours in 573. He wrote a work in ten books entitled “Historia
Francorum” which was a history of the Franks from the establishment of
Christianity down to about 591. This work is the principal history of
the Merovingian dynasty. Gregory was persecuted for exposing the crimes
of the Frankish sovereigns Chilperic and Fredegunde. He retired to Rome
where he died in 595.

[15] Fredegarius, called Scholasticus, was an obscure Burgundian monk
of the 8th century, of whom nothing further is known than that he
continued Gregory of Tours’ history of the Franks down to the year 641.

[16] It has been shown by Bonnell that neither Pippin of Landen nor
Pippin of Heristal was so called by contemporary writers. But for the
sake of distinction it seems better to retain these well-known surnames.

[17] It is not the saint, but the horse-race, that is often on the lips
of Englishmen. The St. Leger, established in 1776, is an annual race
for three-year-olds, run at Doncaster in September. It is second only
to the Derby in importance. The race was named in honor of Colonel
Anthony St. Leger.

[18] See p. 55 for description of the battle of Tours.

[19] Isidore was born about 560, became bishop of Seville in 600, and
died in 636. He was a voluminous writer and his works were highly
esteemed during the middle ages. His name is familiarly connected with
the Isidorian, or Spanish, Decretals, of which, however, he was not the

[20] October 10th, 732.

[21] An Italian ecclesiastic who died at Monte Casino about the year
800. He is called the first important historian of the middle ages.

[22] “This pastoral letter, addressed to Lewis the Germanic, the
grandson of Charlemagne, and most probably composed by the pen of the
artful Hincmar, is dated in the year 858, and signed by the bishops of
the provinces of Rheims and Rouen.”--Gibbon, chap. lii. note 34.

[23] St. Augustine, the apostle to England, must not be confounded
with the great theologian of the same name who was bishop of Hippo, in

[24] St. Boniface was born at Crediton. The date of his birth is not
known. He died in Friesland, June 5, 755, and was known as “the Apostle
of Germany.”

[25] Gregory I., surnamed the Great, was born about the year 540, and
reigned as pope from 590 to his death in 604. He was famous for his
zeal in enforcing ecclesiastical discipline and promoting missionary
activity, especially in sending Christian missionaries to England. He
is also noted for his arrangement of church music into what are still
known as “Gregorian modes” or chants. His claim to being the greatest
of the sixteen Gregories can be disputed by Gregory VII. (Hildebrand)
alone. But there is a serious stain on his memory in a letter written
to Phocas who had acquired the imperial throne at Constantinople by
usurpation and murder. “The joyful applause with which” this successor
of the apostles “salutes the fortunes of the assassin, has sullied,
with indelible disgrace, the character of the saint.” Apart from this
one fault, Gregory was meek, kind, sympathetic, and marvellously
efficient. It is the more remarkable that such a man could so fawn upon
even an emperor.

[26] Diocletian became emperor of Rome in the year 284, and shortly
after associated Maximian with himself in the imperial government. In
the division of the empire, Diocletian received the eastern portion,
including Thrace, Egypt, Syria, and Asia--the territory of which
Constantinople was afterwards the capital, though he made his capital
in Nicomedia. This emperor is infamous from his severe persecution of
the Christians 303–305. In the latter year he abdicated, compelling
Maximian to do the same, and spent the remainder of his life in the
cultivation of his gardens in Dalmatia. To the successors of this man,
the popes as head of the Church that had suffered so signally by the
cruelty of the imperial persecution, did abject homage.

[27] Lancashire contains 1,887 square miles.

[28] Silentiary is defined one who is sworn not to divulge the secrets
of the state; hence, a privy councillor.

[29] The exarchate was the dominion of the vicegerent of the Byzantine
emperor in Italy. Justinian originally conferred the title of exarch
upon his commander-in-chief Narses, who reconquered Italy from the
Goths and established his seat of government at Ravenna. The extent of
the exarchate was gradually diminished by the varying fortunes of wars,
until it comprised only a small district about Ravenna.

[30] The word Pentapolis means “the five cities,” and in different
countries refers to various celebrated groups. In Italy the group
included Rimini, Ancona, Fano, Pesaro, and Sinigaglia, with part of the
exarchate of Ravenna.

[31] “One of the most interesting caves is that of Moustier
(Perigord).... It has yielded remains of hyena, cave-bear, and mammoth,
with flint implements.... From the caves of Perigord and some of
those in the Pyrenees have come the most numerous and best finished
examples of carved and engraved horns, and bones, and ivory.”--Geikie,
_Prehistoric Europe_, p. 111.

[32] See p. 104.

[33] The Monk of St. Gall (Monachus Sangallensis) is by some supposed
to be Notker, surnamed Balbulus (the Stammerer), who lived about
840–912. He was famous as a hymn writer and the inventor of that
peculiar kind of hymn called “sequence.” The book, whether its author
be Notker or a fellow monk, was written about the year 883, and is
valuable not only for its anecdotes--some of which are doubtless
legendary--but because it gives the popular opinion of Charlemagne that
prevailed at the time the book was written, three quarters of a century
after the king’s death.

[34] “Charlemagne swept down like a whirlwind from the Alps at the call
of Pope Hadrian, seized the King Desiderius in his capital, himself
assumed the Lombard crown, and made northern Italy thenceforward an
integral part of the Frankish empire. Proceeding to Rome at the head
of his victorious army, the first of a long line of Teutonic kings who
were to find her love more deadly than her hate, he was received by
Hadrian with distinguished honors, and welcomed by the people as their
leader and deliverer.”--Bryce, _The Holy Roman Empire_, chap. iv.

[35] According to ancient Greek mythology, Sisyphus was, for his great
wickedness, condemned in Hades to roll a great stone from the bottom to
the top of a hill; but before he reached the top, the stone broke away
and rolled down again, so that his task had to be begun anew, and thus
it resulted in endless and tantalizing monotony.

[36] Augustine--the theologian and bishop of Hippo--completed in
the year 426 his book _De Civitate Dei_ (The City of God), which is
regarded the greatest monument of his genius and learning. The chief
aim of this book is to vindicate the claims of the Christian Church
against those who asserted that such calamities as the capture of Rome
by Alaric resulted from the new religion. On the contrary Augustine
conceives of the Church as a “new order rising on the ruins of the
old Roman empire:” a claim that might easily be used to defend the
transference of despotic authority from the empire to the Church.

[37] The conflict with the Saxons at Eresburg was precipitated by the
ill-timed zeal of an Anglo-Saxon missionary named Lebuinus, who forced
his way into their sacred assembly. “Arrayed in gorgeous robes and
carrying a cross in his hand, the zealous missionary passed through the
throng to an open enclosure, peculiarly sacred to the worshippers. The
Saxons resented this intrusion as sacrilegious, but suppressed their
indignation and for awhile listened to him.” He delivered a fiery and
threatening address which so roused their wrath that they came near
killing him. More moderate councils prevailed and the missionary was
allowed to depart, but the church that Lebuinus had built for the
salvation of these heathen, but which they could not be persuaded
to use for Christian worship, was burned to the ground. This act of
sacrilege was readily used to work on the feelings of Charlemagne.
“Idolatry must perish” and Charlemagne was not reluctant to be the
instrument of its punishment. In any view of the subject, however, it
must be conceded that, human nature being what it is, the conflict
between the two peoples, the Christian Franks and the heathen Saxons,
was irrepressible, and one or the other was destined to prevail.--See
Mombert, _Charles the Great_, book ii., chap. iii.

[38] The words of Einhard, Charlemagne’s biographer, are, ... “_dum
aut victi christianæ religioni subicerentur, aut omnino tollerentur_,”
“until they were either subdued and converted to the Christian
religion, or annihilated.”

[39] The most ferocious and warlike of all the barbarians with whom
Charlemagne contended, not even excepting the Avars, were the Saxons.
These people seemed to have an inextinguishable hatred of Christianity
and of slavery. Almost their only redeeming trait was their respect for
womanhood. They roamed the forests, and to some extent sailed the seas;
they lived largely by hunting, but they preferred piracy and plunder.
They could not be won by kindness. Even their word of honor was not
binding upon them, for they continually violated the pledges of their
treaties. The only way to deal with them was thoroughly to conquer
them and to deal with them with a severity bordering on cruelty. This
Charlemagne did. It took eighteen expeditions--though he never lost a
battle with them--and thirty-three years to accomplish his purpose,
but he was successful at the last. This people became civilized,
christianized, and they developed into the best people of Europe,
becoming the nucleus of the great German empire, and an important
constituent of the English. Beyond almost all others, they have escaped
the corruptions and vices attendant upon a luxurious life, and they are
to-day among the leaders of industry and enterprise in both hemispheres.

[40] See chap. viii.

[41] Berserker was a hero of Norse legend who fought without coat of
mail and overcame all foes. His descendants, called Berserkers, went
into battle under the inspiration of a fury, or demoniacal possession,
in which condition gnawing the rim of their shields, howling like
wild beasts, and foaming at the mouth, they were supposed to be
invulnerable. This fury was the Berserk, or Berserker’s, rage.

[42] The Schleswig-Holstein question is proverbially complicated, being
made so by the relations of the two provinces to each other, by the
further relations of each separately and both combined to Denmark, and
by the relations of all three to Austria, Prussia, etc. There was an
almost ceaseless succession of wars over the question, or questions,
from 1848 to 1866, when Schleswig-Holstein became a province of
Prussia. For a full statement of the subject, see Bryce, _Holy Roman
Empire_, note B.

[43] See p. 58, note.

[44] The placitum of the middle ages was a sort of convention for the
consideration of public questions, over which the sovereign presided.

[45] See p. 160.

[46] “The details of the plot are said to have embraced the
assassination of the king and his three royal sons, and the subsequent
proclamation of Pippin as king. This was the bait which the
conspirators held out to him....

“The secret was well kept. Pippin shammed sickness and for a while
stayed away from court; the plot was fairly under way and dangerously
near a successful termination, when by the inexplicable carelessness of
the conspirators the whole of their impious scheme became known.

“They met in the church of St. Peter at Ratisbon and discussed all the
details of the plot in the hearing of a cleric who from some cause
or other had found his way into the church. Perhaps he came to sleep
there; the conspirators found him hiding under the altar, and, strange
to tell, contented themselves with his solemn promise on oath that
he would not divulge the ominous secret. But the oath sat lightly on
his conscience, and the moment after the conspirators had left he ran
half-dressed at the dead of night to the royal palace and gave the

“No one could stay his progress on his way to the royal bed-chamber;
he passed through seven doors and at last stood before it and so
frightened the ladies in attendance upon the queen that they shut it
in his face; they tried to stifle their laughter at his appearance
with their dresses [_sic_.] But the king had heard the noise and asked
what it meant. They said that a half-clad, scraped, silly, and raving
scamp demanded to see the king, and made an unmannerly noise. Charles
sent for him and made him tell all he knew. ‘Before the third hour of
the day,’ writes the Monk, ‘all the chief conspirators, not expecting
anything of the kind, were either on the way to exile or punishment.
The dwarfish, hunch-backed Pippin received a good beating, was shaved,
and sent _for a little while_ to the monastery of St. Gall to do
penance.’”--Mombert, p. 219.

[47] Lazare Nicolas Marguerite Carnot (1753–1823) served as minister of
war for nearly three years during the French revolution. His success as
a strategist won for him the popular title of “organizer of victory.”

[48] The Koreish is the most influential tribe of the Arabs. Their
prominence is due to the fact that, early in the 5th century, they
obtained and became the masters and guardians of the Kaabeh, in Mecca,
which was a sacred shrine long before the days of Mohammed. Having once
obtained the temple keys, they have succeeded in holding them against
every effort to capture them. “Their possession of the temple-keys
not only gave the tribe of Koreysh a semi-religious pre-eminence over
all the other clans of Arabia, but also placed at their disposal the
treasures of gold, silver, jewels, and other offerings accumulated by
the pagan piety of ages in the temple of Mecca.”--_Encyc. Brit._

The Abbasides, who were descended from Mohammed’s uncle Abbas, became a
powerful tribe and were caliphs of Bagdad for five centuries, from 750
to 1258.

[49] “The Normans had crossed the English fosse, and were now at the
foot of the hill, with the palisades and the axes right before them.
The trumpet sounded, and a flight of arrows from the archers in all
the three divisions of William’s army was the prelude to the onslaught
of the heavy-armed foot. But before the two armies met hand to hand,
a juggler or minstrel, known as _Taillefer_, the Cleaver of Iron,
rode forth from the Norman ranks as if to defy the whole force of
England in his single person. He craved and obtained the duke’s leave
to strike the first blow; he rode forth, singing songs of Roland and
of Charlemagne--so soon had the name and exploits of the great German
become the spoil of the enemy. He threw his sword into the air and
caught it again; but he presently showed that he could use warlike
weapons for other purposes than for jugglers’ tricks of this kind; he
pierced one Englishman with his lance, he struck down another with
his sword, and then himself fell beneath the blows of their comrades.
A bravado of this kind might serve as an omen, it might stir up the
spirits of the men on either side; but it could in no other way affect
the fate of the battle.”--Freeman, _Norman Conquest_, iii. 319.

[50] After Charlemagne had delivered France and Germany from external
enemies, he turned his arms against the Saracens of Spain. “This
was the great mistake of his life.... In seeking to invade Spain,
Charlemagne warred against a race from whom Europe had nothing more
to fear. His grandfather, Charles Martel, had arrested the conquests
of the Saracens; and they were quiet in their settlements in Spain,
and had made considerable attainments in science and literature.
Their schools of medicine and their arts were in advance of the
rest of Europe. They were the translators of Aristotle, who reigned
in the rising universities during the middle ages. As this war was
unnecessary, Providence seemed to rebuke Charlemagne. His defeat at
Roncesvalles was one of the most memorable events in his military
history.... The Frankish forces were signally defeated amid the passes
of the Pyrenees; and it was not until after several centuries that
the Gothic princes of Spain shook off the yoke of their Saracenic
conquerors, and drove them from Europe.”--John Lord, _Beacon Lights of

[51] see p. 7, note.

[52] See p. 117, note.

[53] Rhine?

[54] The _solidus_ was a Byzantine coin worth about $5.12 of United
States money.

[55] See p. 125.

[56] See pp. 165, 166.

[57] The wrangling between James I. of England and Philip II. of Spain
over the terms of the marriage treaty between the Prince of Wales and
the Infanta, came near to involving the two countries in war.

[58] Adoptionism, the heresy that Jesus was the Son of God by adoption
only, caused much disturbance in the Spanish and Frankish Churches
in the latter part of the 8th century. It was promulgated chiefly by
Felix, bishop of Urgel, and by Elipandus, archbishop of Toledo; it was
resisted by Alcuin and by Charlemagne. It was condemned by the council
at Ratisbon in 792, at Frankfort in 794, and at Aix-la-Chapelle in 799,
and soon disappeared.

[59] The festival of the Robigalia was said to be instituted by Numa
for the purpose of worshipping Robigus, or Robigo,--for it is uncertain
whether the divinity was masculine or feminine,--in order to avert the
blight of too great heat from the springing grain. With the ancient
Romans the cereal festivals were held at the time of planting, and not,
like our thanksgiving, after the harvest.

[60] See p. 230, note.

[61] Melan-Chthon is merely the Greek translation of the German
Schwarz-Erd, or Black-Earth; and Œco-Lampadius is the Greek equivalent
of the German Hans-Schein which in turn was substituted for Hussgen or

[62] The ambo was an elaborate pulpit or reading desk placed in the
choir of the church and having two ascents--one from the east and the
other from the west.

[63] In this case the purple cope, a vestment of the pope.

[64] The description of the coronation by Bryce is added for its
picturesqueness:--“On the spot where now the gigantic dome of Bramante
and Michael Angelo towers over the buildings of the modern city, the
spot which tradition had hallowed as that of the apostle’s martyrdom,
Constantine the Great had erected the oldest and stateliest temple of
Christian Rome. Nothing could be less like than was this basilica to
those northern cathedrals, shadowy, fantastic, irregular, crowded with
pillars, fringed all round by clustering shrines and chapels, which
are to most of us the mediæval types of architecture. In its plan and
decorations, in the spacious sunny hall, the roof plain as that of a
Greek temple, the long row of Corinthian columns, the vivid mosaics
on its walls, in its brightness, its sternness, its simplicity, it
had preserved every feature of Roman art, and had remained a perfect
expression of Roman character. Out of the transept, a flight of steps
led up to the high altar underneath and just beyond the great arch, the
arch of triumph, as it was called: behind in the semicircular apse sat
the clergy, rising tier above tier around its walls; in the midst, high
above the rest, and looking down past the altar and over the multitude,
was placed a bishop’s throne, itself the curule chair of some forgotten
magistrate. From that chair the Pope now rose, as the reading of
the gospel ended, advanced to where Charles--who had exchanged his
simple Frankish dress for the sandals and the chlamys of a Roman
patrician--knelt in prayer by the high altar, and as in the sight of
all he placed upon the brow of the barbarian chieftain the diadem of
the Cæsars, then bent in obeisance before him, the church rang to the
shout of the multitude, again free, again the lords and centre of the
world, “Karolo Augusto a Deo coronato magno et pacifico imperatori vita
et victoria” [Long life and victory to Charles the August, crowned by
God as the great and peaceful emperor]. In that shout, echoed by the
Franks without, was pronounced the union, so long in preparation, of
the Roman and the Teuton, of the memories and the civilization of the
South with the fresh energy of the North, and from that moment modern
history begins.”--_The Holy Roman Empire_ chap. vi.

[65] Theodosius the Great was born in Spain about 346 and died in 395.
Though he was under the influence of Ambrose, bishop of Milan; and
though the bishops humiliated him and once compelled him to do penance
for the period of eight months, his reign was one of great splendor,
and the last year of his life he was sole emperor.

[66] It was in the winter of 1804–5 that the fiasco of Boulogne

[67] “The emperor celebrated the birth of our Lord at Aachen.”

[68] The city of Ravenna; which is situated between the Ronco and the
Lamone rivers.

[69] He absolutely refused to take medicines, and when ill his only
treatment was abstaining from food. See also p. 304:--“According to his
usual custom he thought to _subdue the fever by fasting_.”

[70] Louis deserved the surname “Pious” so far as his care for the
morals of his people was concerned. At the beginning of his reign he
earnestly attacked the abuses that prevailed. At court he suppressed
licentiousness and punished the nobility who had abused their
authority. He also tried to reform the clergy. Seeking to establish
the order of succession, he associated his oldest son, Lothair, with
himself in the government, and gave to his two younger sons, Pippin and
Louis, portions of the empire. His wife, however, died, and he marrying
again became the father of a fourth son. Upon this he revised his plans
of the partition of the empire. The three older sons rebelled, and
took their father prisoner in the year 833, but in the following year
he was reinstated by his son Louis. Again in 838 Louis was involved in
a dispute with his sons, but he died (840) while the question was in
process of arbitration. “He had capacities which might have made him a
great churchman, but as a secular ruler he lacked prudence and vigor,
and his management prepared the way for the destruction of the empire
established by his father.”

[71] A curious and somewhat difficult question arises as to the
disposal of the remains of the great emperor. This account rests
on the authority of Einhard, and is fully confirmed by Thegan the
biographer of Louis the Pious. But in the year 1000 the Emperor Otho
III. opened the tomb in the presence of two bishops, and a knight
named Otho of Lomello, and according to the statement of that knight
communicated to the author of the chronicle of Novalese, they found
the emperor sitting on a throne, with a golden crown on his head, and
holding a golden sceptre in his hands. The hands were covered with
gloves, through which the nails protruding had worked their way. A
little chapel (_tuguriolum_) of marble and lime was erected over him,
through the roof of which the excavators made their way. None of the
emperor’s limbs had rotted away, but a little piece had fallen from the
end of the nose, which Otho caused to be replaced in gold. The four
discoverers fell on their knees before the majestic figure. Then they
clothed him with white robes, cut the finger nails, took away one tooth
as a relic, closed the roof of the chapel and departed.

The account is a very circumstantial one, and is given by a
contemporary chronicler on the authority of one of the actors of the
scene who is a fairly well-known historical personage. Yet most modern
inquirers accept the conclusion advocated by Theodor Lindner (Die
Fabel von der Bestattung Karls des Grossen), that the story must be
rejected as untrue, in other words, that Otho of Lomello in relating
it was playing on the credulity of his hearers. The chief reasons for
this conclusion are, that the story is hopelessly at variance with
the statements of Einhard and Thegan. If the body was buried on the
very day of death, there would be no time for the elaborate process
of embalming which this story requires. The words of the epitaph
“humatum,” “sub hoc conditorio situm est,” would not be applicable to
such a mode of interment. Moreover, such a very unusual mode of dealing
with the great emperor’s body would surely have attracted some notice
from the ninth-century authors who in prose and verse celebrate the
deeds of Charles, not one of whom makes the slightest allusion to it.
Lastly, though an industrious search has been often made, no one has
ever been able to find a trace of the _tuguriolum_ (necessarily a room
of a certain size) in which the corpse was said to have been seated.

In 1165, at the time of the canonization of Charles, his body was
taken up by the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, removed from the marble
sarcophagus, in which it had lain for nearly 352 years, and placed in a
wooden coffer in the middle of the church. For this wooden coffer was
substituted fifty years later, at the order of Frederick II., a costly
shrine, adorned with gold and jewels, in which at the present day,
every six years, the relics of “St. Charles the Great,” are exhibited
to the people. The head is separated from the body and enclosed in a
silver portrait-bust of fourteenth-century workmanship.

[72] See p. 230, note.

[73] The minuscule was a small letter that displaced the awkward
uncials used by the monastic scribes of the early centuries. It was the
basis of the small letters of the modern Greek and Roman alphabets.

[74] After the law of his own country.

[75] Sixty golden solidi = $307.20.

[76] Of “the famous oath of Strassburg,” by which a dispute between
Louis the German and his brother Charles the Bald was adjusted,
Professor Freeman says: “That precious document ... shows that in 841
the distinctions of race and language were beginning to make themselves
felt. The Austrasian soldiers of King Louis swear in the Old-German
tongue, of which the oath is an early monument;” while the Neustrian
soldiers of King Charles swear “in the _lingua Romana_ ... a tongue
essentially of Roman origin, and yet a tongue which has departed too
far from the Roman model to be any longer called Latin. It has ceased
to be Latin, but we cannot yet call it French, even Old French....
In the course of the next century it became nationalized as _lingua
Gallica_.” See _Historical Essays_, I., 184.

Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in the original book; otherwise they
were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; unbalanced quotation
marks were remedied when the change was obvious, and otherwise left
unbalanced; some are noted in further detail below.

The illustration on the title page is the publisher’s logo.

Page 71: “In the year 750 [it should be 751]” is in the original book;
it is not a note from the Transcribers of this eBook.

Page 93: Missing ending quotation mark for text beginning with “The
great distinction”. Transcriber added one after “sometimes assume.”

Page 115: “of so noble” was printed as “of so no noble”; changed here.

Page 202: “(791–842)” was printed as “(791–482)”; changed here.

Page 206: Unbalanced quotation mark in the paragraph beginning “He

Page 269: “pre-eminence over them” was printed as “pre-eminence ever
them”; changed here.

Page 329: “he gave the Teutonic race” was printed as “the gave te
Teutonic race”; corrected by Transcriber.

Page 332: “Pippin of Landin” was printed as “Pippin of Landiu”; changed
here, although modern conventional spelling is “Landen”.

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